# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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The Final Option (1994, Gordon Chan)

Setting off a little trend in the 1990s dubbed the "cop soap opera", it's an apt term for Gordon Chan's The Final Option that mixes action, Special Duties Unit (Hong Kong's version of SWAT) training and the private lives of the cadets. It also introduces the world to one of Michael Wong's most iconic characters in the form of instructor Stone Wong (who does not want to be called gwai lo... and it became somewhat of a classic Hong Kong film quote). It's hard to argue that the template is truly interesting however as soap opera really represents the level the drama resides at too. So there's no particular depth present watching Peter Yung lose a partner in the line of duty, struggle with demons in training, be a good Samaritan to Carman Lee's character but setting your standard a little lower helps. Because then Gordon Chan delivers solid entertainment and pace as we mostly stick to Stone Wong's training (he's not as hard on the boys as R. Lee Ermey would be but his charm is fairly infectious), we get through the middling off hours drama and enjoy the rather fetching, brutal street shootouts courtesy of Bruce Law. Dealing with over acting but nevertheless brutal villains, the realistic tint to the gunplay and interesting twist involving tactics during the finale makes The Final Option an easy, if not grand time making statements about friendship, brotherhood, bonding and law. Thankfully armed with the added professionalism of sync sound, the film also stars Chan Kwok-Bong.

Final Run (1989) Directed by: Phillip Ko

Phillip Ko's absolute best film as director (it could stand proudly alongside Killer's Romance though), this very simple tale of revenge gets big, vast and epic because of the quite unbelievable roster of talent gathered up for one movie. In no particular order, Miu Kiu-Wai, Simon Yam, Phillip Ko himself, Francis Ng, Yukari Oshima, Ridley Tsui, Dick Wei, Ha Chi-Jan, Ha Ping, Shum Wai, Luk Chuen, Leung Kar-Yan, Mark Houghton and in the lead, Cheung Kwok-Keung which is the lesser name compared to some other bankable ones in the cast. Essentially it starts when Cheung's customs inspector gets unwillingly drawn into the narcotics business of childhood friend played by Miu Kiu-Wai. With a rash badass by his side in the form of Phillip Ko, Cheung's family is wiped out and the flick re-locates to Thailand where control of drugs and the Golden Triangle is high priority for many. Connected to and getting in the way are the likes of Dick Wei and Yukari Oshima. Aside from the likes of Francis Ng, Phillip Ko gives many of his players time to shine with either the usage of fists, legs or guns and the assault is quite wonderfully entertaining. A freight train of a movie with often very well-done action (in particular Dick Wei and Yukari Oshima taking on a bunch of henchmen) and the guerilla camp finale fires on all cylinders, not only for martial arts fans. It's not art but very well performed within its parameters.

Final Target (1994) Directed by: Ridley Tsui

Friends Sing (Ridley Tsui) and Chung (Karel Wong) are taken in to be part of Brother Ki's (Eddy Ko) triad organization, despite the former's insistence on not doing anything illegal. With Sing rising in rank and confidence in the eyes of Ki though, the screw-up Chung's resentment is growing to the degree where betrayal and murder will be the necessary cause of action. Ki's woman Yung (Erica Choi) has also caught the eye of Sing, especially since she's living in an abusive relationship with Ki...

Shot on a shoestring budget clearly, Tsui actually spreads out his elements of thriller, focus on narrative and action very well and the whole package is a solid movie from a storytelling point. All basic stuff but casting well across the board (Karel Wong is highly enjoyable when heinous as always, without going over the top) and providing a fine mix of gunplay, painful stunts and fights, Final Target is a reason to open your eyes to Ridley Tsui's skills as a filmmaker.

The Final Test (1987) Directed by: Lo Gin

A rare venture for Hong Kong into sci-fi territory but not the first time them borrowing a plot outline from somewhere else. In the case of The Final Test, you'll recognize the plot beats from the Sean Connery movie Outland (1981) but The Final Test is spiced up with enough Hong Kong uniqueness to make it its own and it's bad choice. Sum Ying Mo (Austin Wai, not a successful action, comedic or romantic lead) becomes the new security chief at a mine and uncovers a plot where the workers are injected with a drug called LAXO49 in order to increase productivity. An operation headed by the foreman played by Blacky Ko and the mine doctor Jo Jo (Deborah Sims). Ying Mo digs deeper, romances Jo Jo and in the end has her by his side to shoot and kick his way through the plant leading up to the suspicious plant manager (Yuen Wah) who is more often than not occupied with his Space Invaders gaming session...

Austin Wai largely hams it up and when Billy Lau enters as one of the security staff, the movie largely grates. Clashing with all this is the various scenes of harsher violence, fight action and even rape plus the future design of the mine is rather poorly realized. Putting fences inside and shooting in a factory, it hovers into low budget territory that didn't do the movie any favours in the 80s. It's just poor but the similarities in costumes to that of the TV-series V is amusing. The second half picks up considerably and moves along at a snappier pace thanks to an ejection of clownish comedy. The lack of true sci-fi weaponry or any refined gunplay is ok as director Lo Gin (Fatal Love) barely stops to breathe and Yuen Wah at the end turning into a robotic fighter is a classic sight that redeems the movie for an all too short while. The undeserved dark ending does spoil the positives a lot though. Also appearing, Chin Siu-Ho, Eric Tsang, Mandy Chan and future acclaimed director Jacob Cheung in a fighting role (!).

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Final Victory (1987) Directed by: Patrick Tam

As Big Brother Bo (Tsui Hark) is about to go to jail, lowly triad Hung (Eric Tsang) gets awarded the task of looking after two mistresses of his, Sue (Margaret Lee) and Mimi (Loletta Lee). They're difficult to contain and along the way some kind of bravery in Hung makes Mimi fall for him. Question is, how will this breach of confidence go down with the imprisoned Bo?

Written by Wong Kar-Wai and being a departure from the majority of the scripts he was behind at the time (including The Haunted Cop Shop) in the way it leans more towards black comedy, drama and arthouse. A strange little off-beat creature therefore, directed by Patrick Tam (My Heart Is That Eternal Rose). Strange in the way it seems to wander endlessly without a purpose, churning out black comedy that is merely amusing but all of a sudden Wong and Tam turns the film into a coherent one. Then there's the big problem of believing in the love story between Tsang and Loletta Lee but Tam pours on the style, making this work a fairly immersing one. In the end it's still a frame that's more clear to the filmmakers than the audience but it's worth the time spent. Eric Tsang puts in admirable dramatic acting although his efforts at this time was still rough but instead it's Tsui Hark that impresses with a convincingly menacing performance. Aided by writing and direction quite a lot obviously but it's the rare chance for Tsui to not done his goofy persona when in front of the camera. Dennis Chan and Chen Jing also briefly appear.

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Fingers On The Trigger (1984) Directed by: Ang Saan

The police, led by Inspector K K Lee (Melvin Wong) seeks a limping man for a murder on the streets of Hong Kong. The connection is former cop and partner to KK Lee, Fan Kun (Stanley Fung) who is desperate to raise money for his sick son...

With some stylish point of view shots for a production such as this during the opening, director Ang Saan provides an assured hand to the almost straight proceedings. The desperation of Fan Kun and the drama connecting his character to KK Lee, it is done according to formulaic expectations so assured hand doesn't mean anything more than fair. But stable Hong Kong cinema, infused with a good sense of providing gritty violence, it gets you places of acceptance on the small scale. Also with Margaret Lee as the love interest of Fan Kun's character and her body double to raise the gratuitous nudity factor for no valid reason whatsoever.

Fire Bulls (1966) Directed by: Lee Ga, Lee Hang & Pai Ching-Jui

The Yen Army is closing in on the territory of the Chi's and their main town so it's up to General Tien Tan to gather troops and the little man against a much greater force. Oh yea and the bulls help too...

An impressive epic scale-wise and the trio of directors brings us some mighty quantity within their images. Engaging on a pretty nonexistent level otherwise when portraying the struggles and suffering of the people vs. the various palace intrigue and strategy, Fire Bulls is an attempt that stops at way above average grade technically. Only.

Fire Dragon (1983, Chester Wong)

Sometime in the wake of the release of Chu Yen-Ping’s nutty Dirty Dozen-style action comedy Fantasy Mission Force (with Jackie Chan in support as a favour to its star Jimmy Wang Yu), producers saw either a commercial opportunity or flaws in the assembled footage so they added their own with a new story wrapped around the existing film. The result is a largely incoherent, random mess and that’s saying something considering Chu made a wild movie involving action, wirework, hopping vampires, ghosts etc. Adding the character of John (Kwan Chung) and his partner Sandy (Lu I-Chan) who are after revenge on the Chinese Nazis that killed her father (actors Chen Hung-Lieh and Gam Dai appear in the new footage reprising their roles) and cutting out the likes of Wang Yu and Jackie Chan’s on-screen partner Pearl Cheung, the sometimes barely audible dub tries to make sense out of character introductions by retaining some of the sights and sounds from the supernatural sequences in a bizarre move for starters. The unconnected and disconnected results are not surprising and when the Fantasy Mission Force story is taken out of its context it becomes less off the wall and oddly unwatchable. It’s all of a sudden not a delightfully scattershot Dirty Dozen on drugs but a dull comedown. Brigitte Lin and the gang are doubled at points in order to appear in the same scenes as John. As is Jackie Chan in new fight footage and the character is introduced working out in a gym filled with posters and stills from his films in case we were in any doubt.

Fire Dragon (1994) Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping

One of Yuen Woo-Ping's forgotten 90s new wave martial arts efforts, probably because it's very hard to own this on dvd. Rebel fighter Yuen Ming (Max Mok) must protect an important letter with content that can expose the corrupt Chinese government. Sent to retrieve the letter is Ma, the Fire Dragon (Brigitte Lin) and she infiltrates the small village where Yuen Ming has settled. Along the way the cold blooded Ma's kind hearted side is awaken and the time comes when she must decide where her loyalty lies...

A plot that divides it's time between lowbrow comedy and political intrigue would normally not work for me but thanks to the casting of Sandra Ng, this former element becomes much more enjoyable. By the second half we are happy to leave it behind us though and watch the serious action unfold. Surprisingly little action for a lot of the time but what's shown is a very compelling mixture of over the top wire work and, to my delight, ground based choreography (courtesy of Yuen Cheung Yan). On display are also a high number of well executed fire- and pyrotechnic gags, an aspect that really shines in the finale. Max Mok equips himself well in the first role I've seen him do outside of the Once Upon A Time In China-series and Brigitte Lin provides the necessary depth to sell the journey her character goes through.

Fire Phoenix (1990) Directed by: Wong Chun-Yeung

Wong Chun-Yeung (Dreaming The Reality) to me is a director who uses the tactic of throwing everything possibly against the wall of movie content until something sticks. Usually, it doesn't stay for very long and while Fire Phoenix isn't a whole lot different from his other actioners, it does things at such a high pitch, creating an entertaining distracting in the long run. Francis Ng and Sibelle Hu BOTH have fighting roles with Ng doing admirably well as he is clearly doing choreography for longer takes but is really flailing his arms and legs more than anything. His Mantis style against Mark Houghton is a sight though. Playing against the likes of Alex Fong, Carrie Ng, Alex Man (another performance based on growling) and Sandra Ng, initially this means a whole lot of action sans style but some of the stuntmen under action director Chui Fat showcases their talents well. Francis is comedic relief for the first few reels but seeing as director Wong want to have this carrousel spinning at top speed, Sandra Ng and Shum Wai turn into representatives of the intense "comedic" side to Fire Phoenix. At best, Sandra is a fine comedienne, at other times like here, she's really the female equivalent of Dean Shek. Still, it's a short and breezy package where guns, gore and sophomoric behaviour rules but I've had worse.

There are a number of movies from this time where Francis Ng and Alex Fong have shared the screen, a match up that would be a character acting heaven these days. What we know today is that they needed to grow older and that Fong needed to shave. Rest is history...in the making.

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