I realized that Tsui Hark wrote/produced this Dragon Inn remake between Once Upon a Time in China movies, and I proceeded to watch it with the wrong soundtrack selected, wondering why everyone was so badly dubbed, damn it. Beautiful action film, with more people twirling through the air holding swords than I’ve ever seen in a movie before.

Tall Tony 2 is protecting the children of his late superior from the power-mad evil eunuch’s forces. He meets up with fellow fighter/girlfriend Brigitte Lin at the desert inn run by Maggie Cheung, a mercenary whose chef serves previous guests for dinner. They spend half the movie looking for the secret exit door and when they finally escape through it after defending a massive attack on the inn, they only get a three second head start over president eunuch Donnie Yen due to a scarf mishap – they might as well have walked out the damn door. Maggie and her chef choose the righteous side and help the others defeat Donnie during a sandstorm. I saw Iron Vest in there somewhere, guess he did not survive.

Mouseover to see what happens when you hold your battle pose for too long:

A quickie follow-up to Heroic Trio codirected by the Chinese Ghost Story guy. Nothing but commercial fluff. I’m not angry about it – Criterion can do whatever they want, and I got to see another Johnnie To movie in nice HD.

In the post-apocalyptic future, Maggie Cheung is a water thief and bounty hunter, Michelle Yeoh is working with the mad scientist trying to revive the supply of fresh water, and Anita Mui is retired with a kid and a politician husband (Paul Chun of Peking Opera Blues). But when the idiot police bring a freshly-captured killer to a press conference with the President (Guan Shan of A Better Tomorrow II) without checking him for bombs first, Anita’s husband is murdered and she’s thrown in jail. Maggie takes care of the kid – the two whiniest characters adventuring together with her rival Mad Detective, who she decides she loves ten seconds before he’s crushed by an underwater gate. Takeshi Kaneshiro’s debut as a charismatic pretty boy used as an expendable publicity tool for the mad scientist. Anthony Wong can’t be seen in this movie since he died so hard in part one, so he plays every deformed masked character. Anita finally breaks out of jail, regaining her powers, and takes on the evil inventor Kim, who was really hoarding fresh water while pretending to be providing it. He accidentally blows up his own iron-fisted superfighter with a grenade crossbow, then extremely kills Yeoh, then gets blow’d up.

Lau “Mad Detective” Ching-wan and Maggie:


R. Emmet Sweeney for Metrograph:

With Executioners, Ching and To pivot from postmodern comic book to survivalist Mad Max paranoia. They turn the fears and anxieties over 1997 up to 11, detonate a nuclear bomb, and let the trio live in a post-apocalyptic state where most of the drinking water has been poisoned by radiation and survivors are at war for what remains. To claims the sequel was only made to cover the cost overruns of the first movie: “The reason why we produced the second one was because the budget for the first one was very high and we needed to make two films to cover the whole production cost.” Executioners is perhaps more of an accounting trick than a movie, but though it is heavy on exposition it also features moments of crazed creativity — such as Anthony Wong’s unhinged performance as an operatically depressed monster who conspires with the police to hoard water and who keeps the severed head of his unrequited lover (Takeshi Kaneshiro) in a sumptuously appointed leather box.


Wong Fei-hung is trying to run his martial arts school while the master is away and fulfill their dream of expelling the foreigners, along with his men – strong Porky Wing, stuttering bilingual So, and guy without qualities Kai – but everyone keeps getting mad at him. Scarface and his Shaho gangsters terrorize the town, burn down the school, and kidnap Wong’s young 13th Aunt to sell to the Americans. After causing much trouble Scar ends up thrown in a furnace by his kidnappees. The British and Chinese governments want Wong arrested. Then mercenary superfighter Iron Vest Yim comes to town, gains a disciple in fired theater worker Foon, and keeps challenging Wong. He ends up shamed for his hidden knife technique, roundly defeated in ladder combat, then murdered by the whites. The Brits have their own kung fu champ, who takes a Wong-thrown bullet to the brain – victory.

Our series stars: Jet Li, who wasn’t anybody until this came out, and Rosamund Kwan, who’d been in the Jackie/Sammo/Lucky Stars group. I didn’t realize the disciples wouldn’t be regulars – Porky Wing (Kent Cheng Jak-Si of Sex & Zen and Crime Story) will return in part 5. Jacky Cheung, in the middle of his WKW era, had better prospects than playing Bucktooth So. Yuen Gam-Fai (Kai) continued playing guys without qualities, hitting the height of 7th-billed-in-Burning Paradise. Iron Vest Yen Shi-Kwan is the evil master of Heroic Trio. His boy Foon is Yuen Biao, also from the Lucky Stars gang. And Scarface would appear in a Charlie Chan action-mystery called Madam City Hunter.

Porky, Kai, So, Jet, Rosamund:

The signage… it’s trying to tell us something:

Tony Rayns: Hark returned to HK from NY, made his three angry young man films (ahem), those made no money and he reinvented himself as a family entertainer in early 1980s with Zu and some comedies. Chose Jet Li from the mainland for his action skills and old-fashioned dignity. OUATIC is the English title, original is just Wong Fei-hung, and OUATIC2 is called Wong Fei-hung 2: A Man Must Rely on His Own Strength.



Minimal story, all vibes – and they’re mid-90’s post-Pulp Fiction hitman-in-sunglasses fisheye-lens trip-hop vibes. Stories spun off from Chungking: crazy dude Takeshi Kaneshiro meets crazy chick Charlie Yeung (a Tsui Hark regular), and hitman Leon Lai (A Hero Never Dies) wants to quit the business so his lovestruck partner Michelle Reis (Flowers of Shanghai) sends him on a fatal job. Stephen Chow costar Karen Mok shows up in both sections as man-thieving Blondie.

Two decades into the Blog Era and probably a decade since Katy turned a Fallen Angels poster-turned-giftwrapped-box into a permanent decoration in our house, I’m finally rewatching this (in the re-colored, re-framed Criterion edition). Sadly for my loyal fans I got nothing in the way of analysis or screenshots today, just happy I got around to it before the 20+ hour Blossoms Shanghai comes out in English.

Pairs well with Mad Fate – another potentially insane lead character, this time Lau Ching-wan, playing another Mad Detective. He’s now an ex-detective, living on the street but still solving crimes, pissed at the employed cop (Raymond Lam of P Storm) botching the cases, drawing interest from pregnant cop Charlene Choi (The Goldfinger). Things get convoluted as a young group called The Sleuths – Lau’s daughter and the children of crime victims and the wrongly-accused – uses Lau’s research for a revenge campaign, killing off criminals. Some traitor sleuth cops are pulling the strings, getting cops and sleuths killed. After a covid-delayed open, this got nominated for every HK award, so hopefully we’ll get a sequel.

Prequel about the formation of the supercool badass who is MARK. Chow Yun-fat is an ordinary civilian until he meets Anita Mui in Saigon and she teaches him to shoot – but why’d they name her Kit when that’s Leslie Cheung’s character name in part one?

Mark tries to do straight business deals in a corrupt, turbulent country with his cousin Mun (Tony 2), keeps getting rescued by Anita. The plan is to close Mark’s uncle’s shop and move him to Hong Kong, but customs fucks up their shit so bad that the uncle (Sek Kin of Enter the Dragon) has a heart attack. Anita saves them yet again and they make it to HK halfway through the movie, but Mark and Mun both love the girl, so they return to Vietnam at the same time her long-lost mentor/bf Ho appears. A circle of vendettas ensues, everyone killing everyone else. You can sing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” to the theme song. The fun music montages are the bad-80s aspect of an otherwise cool movie, Tsui taking over the series while John Woo renamed his own Vietnam-set pseudo-prequel Bullet in the Head.

A bloodier, sleazier and more despairing predecessor to Made in Hong Kong, positing that the world is a violent shithole. I’d be completely in favor of this sleazy punk nightmare if someone would please censor the animal torture scenes for me… they’re sticking pins into mice right in the first scene… not sure if throwing the cat out the window Grand Budapest-style was faked. First movie watched in 2024, bad omens for the year to come.

Three boys are experimenting with antisocial behavior by setting off a homemade bomb in a movie theater. They’re followed by witness Wan-chu, malcontent younger sister of a detective (Five Fingers of Death star Lo Lieh), who blackmails them into committing ever-greater crimes. And she is not fucking around, starts by hijacking a bus full of passengers. She steals a lot of money orders from a foreigner, setting off a whole secondary gangster plot (the guy’s exposition buddy tells us they’re “in a deadly business”). Inevitably, Detective Brother gets involved in the gangster case until disciplined by his boss, the most dubbed white guy of all time. The girl dies in the same way as her cat, while all the boys get shot in a climactic cop-gangster shootout, only one surviving, wounded and poisoned and insane.

Mouseover to waste this foreigner:

Catching up… I shouldn’t have watched this within a couple weeks of Detective vs. Sleuths. Johnnie To may be retired but his particular way of lighting street scenes lives on – writer, editor, and DP are all from Drug War, Blind Detective, and Romancing in Thin Air.

Bo from Sparrow is a twitchy guy trying to help people change their fates. His latest client leaves and is immediately murdered, witnessed by a pervert delivery boy whose hobby is killing CG cats, always pursued by a mustache cop. According to fate, Bo will go insane and the delivery guy will do a murder, so they team up to change the future. Then a bad-luck prostitute moves into the apartment building, looking like an excellent victim to both the delivery boy and the real killer whose bag of knives keeps changing hands. My second HK movie lately with scenes in a morgue, as Bo tries some spirit-transfer business, but tragically he ends up becoming an MPD psycho and getting locked up, as the cop retires young and the delivery boy learns to be kind to CG animals.

Hey, about a month ago we hit our 4000th post, big congrats to us! That drum roll means we’ve got a winner. If you’re the fifth reader, or any reader at all, welcome to my top ten. I’d like to thank our sponsor, but we haven’t got a sponsor. Not if you were the last blog on earth.

Sammo Hung and his girl flee from her wicked brother into a spooky coffin house, where they’re menaced by a hopping vampire who just wants to smoke opium with them. You hire Ricky Lau after he’s made four consecutive Mr. Vampire movies, you get hopping vampires. This turns out to be Sammo’s dream, and in waking life the brother is friendly Little Hoi (Aspirin thief of Yes, Madam!). But all is not fine and dandy, since the girl’s rednosed dad is angry after Sammo fights an impertinent teahouse customer who uses mad monkey kung fu via his magician buddy. Sammo needs cash to make things right in order to marry Mimi Kung (Chow Yun-Fat’s wife in Office) but ends up getting tangled in ghost drama.

Master, Sammo, Little Hoi:

Not a continuation of the first Encounter from a decade earlier, but why did I write that it was my first Sammo Hung movie when I’d written about at least two others previously? Ghost Hung (Wong Man-Gwan of Prison on Fire) tries to help steal vases from Teahouse Sze (Andrew Lam of Sammo’s problematic Pantyhose Hero), but Sammo’s master Lam Ching-Ying (also the Mr. Vampire master) doesn’t like him hanging around ghosts and attacks her with his yin-yang yo-yo pokeball. This should all be leading up to a master magicians duel like in the first movie, but when it arrives they’re not even in the same space, a psychic battle across town, which is less immediately satisfying than the first movie’s courtyard tower firefight. Sammo spends some time with his soul in a pig. There’s a really unconvincing swordfight against menacing dogs. Kung-fu with explosive gas-filled mummies is more like it. Movie ends on a dick-sucking joke, perfect.

Sze, Evil Master, monkey: