2003 is over and So Good... is rolling on despite the sole contributor nowadays enjoying a full time dayjob (don't you miss those times where 3 reviews each week was a given?) Anyway, since this is a top 10 for movies seen this year, I won't make huge remarks about Hong Kong cinema in 2003 except that the year has given us a fair few memories. Leslie Cheung sadly committed suicide on April 1st, the ''Asian Madonna'' Anita Mui lost her battle to cancer on December 30th, stuntman/actor/director Blackie Ko passed away, the SARS outbreak, Infernal Affairs broke big on every front, Lau Kar-Leung logged a modestly successful return to filmmaking with Drunken Monkey and Johhnie To made a definite return to form with PTU. Last but not least, we got final proof that Hong Kong cinema now has a new rising talent in the form of Edmond Pang. There's too many to watch and so little time but the following 10 movies impressed, affected me the most during 2003. Let me just say that a top 10 is never enough and there are honorable mentions that I almost feel ashamed of leaving out.

Take care everyone and I thank you for your support of So Good...

To read the entire review of a selected movie, click on the cover art

1. Till Death Do Us Part (Directed by: Daniel Lee)
From the director of Black Mask (and produced by Derek Yee) comes a deeply downbeat divorce drama??!! It's quite a bounce for director Lee from his previously and most widely seen effort but he manages to pull the audiences in beautifully into the world of the crushed Bo Bo (Anita Yuen). One of Lee's problems with Black Mask was the shaky camera work but here he makes it a perfect part of Bo Bo's decent into insanity after a troubled divorce from her husband (Alex Fong). The image of the cheerful Anita Yuen from C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri is vanished and she gives us such a stunning portrayal of a woman victimized but also a fair bit guilty for letting her family fall apart. It all eventually climaxes in a scary and intense finale which results in this year's downer but also most impressive drama according to So Good....Francis Ng puts in good support as Bo Bo's solicitor.
2. The Lunatics (Directed by: Derek Yee)
Martial arts actor turned director Derek Yee debuted with this hard hitting drama that your reviewer quoted as ''the most shocking movie I've ever seen Hong Kong cinema produce''. Yee's comments on how society treats its mentally ill isn't classy or subtle but still very valid, even today considering the murder of Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. Paul Chun puts in yet another solid performance, perhaps his best, while Stanley Fung gets a rare chance to show dramatic acting skills. Don't be fooled by the dvd cover though. Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai merely have small parts. That's not to say they're not very much part of The Lunatics though.
3. C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri (Directed by: Derek Yee)
This award-winning romantic drama brings little new to the screen but is a genuinely heartfelt and touching story with breakthrough roles for Anita Yuen & Lau Ching Wan. There's much magic in every frame of this film and Derek Yee brought out the most magic of all through Anita Yuen's performance. The rest of the cast is an exciting mix of old and new, among others Fung Bo Bo, Paul Chun, Carrie Ng and Carina Lau.
4. Men Suddenly In Black (Directed by: Edmond Pang)
Probably the funniest and most original script out of Hong Kong cinema in 2003. Directing is Edmond Pang who was behind the highly enjoyable, but overlooked, locally, You Shoot, I Shoot. This is a movie about cheating on your wives, played almost totally serious but comes out on top via sharp direction, witty writing and a superb Peter Kam & Anthony Chu score. Along the way the cast gets to spoof the occasional movies with the water hose scene being the best example (it's an obvious nod to heroic bloodshed). Also featuring one of this year's funniest supporting turns, by Tony Leung Kar-Fai.
5. Too Many Ways To Be No.1 (Directed by: Wai Ka-Fai)
The wildest ride of 1997, Wai Ka-Fai's triad flick is unlike anything ever seen before or since. Produced by Johnnie To, featuring some of the most outrageous camera work and humour you'll ever see, this Hong Kong effort resembling Run Lola Run (it actually came out before Tom Tykwer's acclaimed work) is a definite must. Lau Ching Wan and Francis Ng lead the cast with the latter being especially wonderful as the stressed out and frankly idiotic Matt (in the film's second half that is). Wai Ka-Fai's debut, Peace Hotel,was stylish and enjoyable but this second directorial effort hasn't been topped since by one of Milkyway's driving forces alongside Johnnie To.
6. From The Queen To The Chief Executive (Directed by: Herman Yau)
A real eye opener in every sense of the word. Director Herman Yau not only directs his most mature work to date, he also highlights a grave human injustice in the Hong Kong justice system. Based on real events, the feeling is that of a documentary (with fictitious elements added). It all comes together extraordinary well and believe it or not, Herman is the director of The Untold Story!
7. Comeuppance (Directed by: Derek Chiu)
Derek Chiu, one of Hong Kong's smartest directors is behind Comeuppance, a hilariously black comedy from Milkyway. Quite lighthearted despite its dark subject but the humour may not be to everyone's liking. Those who appreciate its tone will get a lot of this though. Patrick Tam, almost unrecognizable compared to Beast Cops, is nicely in tune with the material and Jordan Chan, also looking completely different, plays against type suitably well. What a dork.
8. Comrades, Almost A Love Story (Directed by: Peter Chan)
That year's big winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards is one of the finest romantic dramas ever to come out of Hong Kong. Certainly the best from the 90s period anyway. Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai are the perfect couple trying to avoid being that during a 10 year period that takes them from Hong Kong to New York. Great support comes from Eric Tsang and Dora Ng's Costume & Make Up-design is wonderful.
9. The Phantom Lover (Directed by: Ronny Yu )
Ronny Yu's grandeur take on the classic Phantom Of The Opera-tale not only showcases his eye for big, epic moving pictures but the two leads (Leslie Cheung and Wu Chien-Lien) believably immersed themselves into the 1930s period setting. Leslie involved himself greatly in the music side of this production, resulting in some very compelling musical numbers, and Peter Pau's cinematography is breathtaking.
10. Brother Of Darkness (Directed by: Billy Tang)
2003 partly was the year of Cat III at So Good... and out of the many flawed but highly enjoyable Cat III efforts, Brother Of Darkness stood out the most. Billy Tang to me was one of the few Cat III-directors with a serious approach to any subject matter and while not classy, Brother Of Darkness is a surprisingly affecting drama about domestic abuse of the strongest sort. It doesn't even give way for the obvious, expected trappings of the genre (silly comedy) and gets another sympathetic turn from the underrated Lily Chung.