# 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 Top Lady Of Sword (1993) Directed by: Wong Hong

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Kung-fu brothers Au Lung and Wong Hu arrive in the big town only to be looked down upon as country-men, not knowing the new rules of the martial arts world. One of them longs for more power after this judgment while the other has to side with the townsfolk to bring down the deceptive, power hungry force that is now created...

Better than decent wire-fu spectacle from Taiwan that despite its lack of much in terms of funds and star power manages to create a fun, high flying time. Odd dips such as a sporadic appearance by Wong Fei-Hung and greatly annoying side characters doesn't help and truth be told, there's not much dramatic engagement available despite director Wong Hong pushing for it. Action director Chan Yiu-Lun pushes correctly though and aside from some wonky wirework, the mix of grounded swordplay, flying swordplay and a huge amount of pyrotechnics (our evil brother learns to be the master-blaster basically) is enough to warrant The Top Lady of Sword a respectable place within the new wave genre filmmaking it belongs to. Cynthia Khan and Kenneth Tsang appears in support. Also known as Lady Chrysanthemum Sword.

Top Mission (1987) Directed by: Henry Lee

One should assume the entire list of credits Top Mission are bogus but let's assume one aspect is not and that is seeing Filmark managing to get Strongfilm Productions into bed with this cut & paste product. A Godfrey Strong resides in the credits too, adding further unconfirmed rumours that Godfrey Ho jumped between IFD and Filmark or was Filmark. Why it all doesn't matter lies in the end product.

Opening with some crazy editing, instant sex and Kabuki ninjas, the center stage is occupied by gun wielding ninjas Bruce (Kurt Eberhard) and Lester (Alphonse Beni) who needs to go after former ninja-Mike turned terrorist-Mike. Going after the plans for a laser weapon that will buy him his own country (timid goals for this villain), in the other movie a gang of criminals break out of prison to set into motion a hijacking plan for Mike. There's some marvelously over the top dubbing on top of performers looking like they are performing in their sleep and powerhouse emotions from Alphonse Beni during a crucial scene in the middle of the film. One that suitably seals the fate on Top Mission as a portion of sheer badness for the lovers of it. A bit slow going even at the requisite 90 minutes, the standards we've come to expect are still maintained... thankfully. See also if you can figure out what I mean by pirate-emotions on display.

The Touch (2002) Directed by: Peter Pau

So a few years down the line, with virtually every reviewer giving Michelle Yeoh's action-adventure vehicle The Touch thumbs down, it's kind of fun to go in with the lowest expectations possible but expectedly, otherwise ace cinematographer Peter Pau can't provide anything but great, big imagery. Filmed in English, the performing from some of the Chinese cast takes the film down several notches early on as average English dialogue sound even worse in the hands of people like newcomer Brandon Chang. The Western cast, mainly Ben Chaplin and Richard Roxburgh inject as much conviction as they can, which sort of works as this script doesn't reek off A level storytelling. In that way, Michelle Yeoh and company had a marvelous opportunity to use less refined story, grand images and a genuine Hong Kong style to the action.

Well first of all, action director Phillip Kwok doesn't get to do a whole lot and secondly, there's very, very few moments worth acknowledging as Yeoh kicks and fly her way through the fight scenes with dull results at the end of it. Enhancement via wires and CGI become distractingly obvious and the underground fire climax is a blue screen mess that looks more like a video game than anything resembling convincing. Running at least 10-15 minutes too long, The Touch can at best be amusing thanks to some funny delivery by Ben Chaplin but that's about as nice as one can be. A squandered opportunity after Michelle had done so well for herself in the eyes of international audiences (Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Kenneth Tsang appears briefly.

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Touch And Go (1991) Directed by: Ringo Lam

screencap courtesy of Dragon's Den UK

A.k.a Point Of No Return. A middle of the road effort from Ringo Lam and Sammo Hung but that exciting, and frankly rarely mentioned, collaboration is worth sitting through. Lam of course made his name doing gritty thrillers and Sammo Hung himself could churn out more hard hitting action so it's not a far fetched prospect at all. It starts out promising enough with the requisite Ringo Lam-esque mood (complete with a saxophone soundtrack a la City On Fire) and bloody violence. And Sammo, whose character witnesses a murder, does really well for himself in portraying the ordinary man (with a little bit of ass-kicking skill in him) who's reluctant to help out the law when there's no hope or safety for people like him.

Problem is that Lam this time really shoves down the social commentary down our throat and ventures into far more comedy than needed. Touch And Go therefore comes off as competent, both from Lam and Hung's point of view, but a promising prospect does not in the end fully bloom, which is a shame. Also with Vincent Wan, Tommy Wong, Teresa Mo, Lau Kong and Helena Law Lan.

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A Touch Of Evil (1995) Directed by: Tony Au

In order to avoid prosecution, Coco (Rosamund Kwan) goes undercover for questionably moral cop Leung (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) in order to bring down drug dealer King (Michael Wong). In the process, Coco falls in love with King...

A rare venture into the gangster genre for Tony Au (Dream Lovers) but not a very riveting one. The mostly unsympathetic character gallery certainly promises to hold more complexities and Au begins delivering that by portraying these as broken, desperate people trying to mend as much as they can via immoral ways. A worthwhile theme that in the end makes A Touch Of Evil interesting but it halts at that. Au gets himself into trouble since he's not very open about his goals and that then creates more frustration than curiosity. Unfortunately he can't get much out of Michael Wong either and any attempts at making him and Coco's troubled relationship integral and affecting does crumble. Kwan and Leung are dependable performers away from Wong though with the former logging a feisty, over the top but admirably complex portrayal for an actress who's not been challenged as such over the years. Kwan Hoi-San, Tai Po and Lung Fong also appear.

A Touch Of Zen (1971, King Hu)

Going back and re-examining a movie like A Touch Of Zen, because it’s from such a crowded and overdone genre, means you get to see the best and leading efforts still ARE leading (showcased splendidly via the movie’s recent restoration). Much has been said, maybe even about the 3 hour running time because at heart after some ghost story fake out by King Hu (movie is adapted from Pu Songling's supernatural tales collection "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio”), this plot is deceptively simple. It’s a basic chase scenario but what's clinched with this film in an even greater way compared to Come Drink With Me and Dragon Inn connects to style and technique. Not thematically strong until an intriguing spiritual ending, what you get is 3 hours of pitch perfect precision. Precision in framing, foreground and background elements and an unbeatable flow in editing from shot to shot (it won the Grand Prix du Technique at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975 after all). It’s simply a joy to watch how this evolves from vision at a filmmaker’s level, to acting, costume- and production design and it’s insanely well-driven by all involved. By 1971 action had involved into a snappier affair compared to Dragon Inn and the fantastical heights, where filmmaking techniques described prior play an integral role again, show up here in long, thrilling scenarios rich on buildup through Chinese percussion instruments and intense fight action. Many looked excellent working for other filmmakers but being controlled from the top by such a visionary like King Hu makes all involved do inspired work, ranging from lead Shi Jun as the common man thrust into the deadly affairs of the government to actor/action choreographer Han Ying-Chieh whose work has probably never been as stellar as it is here. Everybody is working with and for King Hu and the results clearly show he was working with and for his cast & crew as well.

Tough Guy (1997) Directed by: Ka Ka

Pure turkey that blends modern day action (hence Yu Rong-Guang and Billy Chow) and drama as the often used terminally ill character plot point rears its head here. Admittedly, that comes as a surprise but neither elements are executed with any skill. The action is dreadfully edited at times and the drama (also dreadfully performed) never is able to go beyond any of the clichés. I'll tell you what Tough Guy has that no other movie has though; a scene where a character falls into a crematorium furnace with melting corpses! That's something you don't see every day.

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The Tournament (1974) Directed by: Wong Fung

The team behind Hap Ki Do and When Taekwondo Strikes brings us this modern day effort that, compared to the former mentioned movie, disappoints. Director Wong Fung's straightforward direction slows down many parts of the film and fans will certainly be disappointed by the lack of action in the first half. When it does hit, Sammo Hung and Chan Chuen's choreography is fast and powerful but there lacks a dedication to it overall. It's sad when the best fight in the film, between Whang In Sik and Mao, occurs way too early. There was a great oppurtunity to end the movie with another bout between the two but the filmmakers opted to introduce a Western fighter instead. An example of the fact there isn't a whole lot of focus to certain areas of the film. Anglea Mao doesn't disappoint however and she displays that famous ferocity with a true fighting ability that few could rival. Quite a number of familiar faces stop by for a quick visit including Sammo himself, Wilson Tong and Yuen Biao. The Tournament is a good watch if you're a fan of the performers but know that previous efforts possesses much more quality. Time to rewatch Hap Ki Do.

Traces Of A Dragon - Jackie Chan & His Lost Family (2003, Mabel Cheung)

After his father told him he had another family in China and that his surname was originally Fang, Jackie Chan decided that these unknown chapters and family history needed to be preserved. Perhaps only for his own personal use and to honor the rich history of his mother and father, in the end he did turn to filmmaking- and life-partners Mabel Cheung and Alex Law to document the telling of the story. Formulating a plan as they went along and logging interviews, Cheung began seeing a story being formed that could be applied to many Chinese people. Suffering through war and political turmoil, where tragedy struck and hard choices needed to be made, Traces Of A Dragon offers up a matter of fact approach without many bells and whistles as a documentary. Getting a lot of energy and coherency via the stories from Jackie's father and the interaction between father and son, she mixes interviews with the other sons and daughters, tracks their histories through stories and archival, sometimes very graphic footage but ultimately it's there to aid the family legacy. There's a psychological factor present that resonates, concerning whether Jackie sees the need to meet his previously unknown family but the film ultimately celebrates sacrifice, hardships and that bonds can be mended.

Tracing Shadow (2009) Directed by: Marco Mak & Francis Ng

Co-director Francis Ng plays Chang, a swordmaster who's retreated from the Wuxia world but is drawn back into it via a desire in multiple characters for a map, including a trio of Andy Lau, Jet Li and Jackie Chan lookalikes and the local rent collector (Jaycee Chan, the son of Jackie Chan). Classic template and Ng along with Marco Mak (this is their second collaboration after Dancing Lion) mixes high flying action, some very silly comedy and don't forget to tap into the charisma Ng can bring. Thankfully.

Mak's visual trickery is both intrusive and shamelessly engaging, Ma Yuk-Sing's action merely cool and creative when it involves Ng and the whole attempt at a majestic, silly production does feel a bit forced. The sets and costumes are there but not the full skill to immerse the viewer into the world. Then again this is a silly world with its share of parodies and satire... little of which comes through. Worst offender being aforementioned trio of warriors whose looks and characteristics are based on the likes of the smiling, good-hearted Jet Li who in the movie has survived a tsunami. True to life, kind of mean spirited but it would've been shamelessly fun had it been.... FUNNY! Thankfully Francis Ng single handedly carries the movie into an ok, lighthearted romp with heavy duty charisma and cool. He can yawn, say nothing, do nothing and it still is mesmerizing. Tracing Shadow isn't pointless and considering how it ends, never intended to provide more than an entertaining distraction. But it's distracting when it stops dead in its tracks when the lead isn't on screen.

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