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.

Ladderdance:

Hairknife:

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:
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Bad move to watch an awesome HK movie near the start of Shocktober, because now I’m off-mission listing HK movies I need to see, considering a TsuiHarkTober rebrand. Leslie Cheung, incompetent in his job as a tax collector, is told he can sleep for free in the spooky old temple infested by stop-motion skeletal zombies. Meanwhile White Snake herself, Joey Wong, is a hot ghost girl doomed by a giant tree called Old Evil to lure men into becoming new stop-motion skeletal zombies.

Joey with her evil stepmom:

“The bearded guy killed your sister. Let’s report him.” Wu Ma is in every kung fu movie but gets a rare big role here as the bearded guy. After Leslie meets the hot girl (Hsiao-tsing, aka Siu Sin, which sounds just like “Susan”) he gets the bearded guy invested in rescuing her soul and defeating the spirit so she can be reincarnated. They spend a long time fighting a gigantic tongue in the woods… cool movie.

Intrigue in 1913 – Brigitte Lin is a general’s daughter working secretly for the rebellion along with opera daughter Sally Yeh (also of the unrelated Shanghai Blues, blind girl in The Killer). Cherie Chung (Winners & Sinners, Once a Thief) is just trying to steal some jewels and gets involved, not unlike Hayley Atwell in Mission: Impossible. Pretty cool movie with overcomplicated plot, and the audio commentary wasn’t doing much for me (it’s some podcasters with dodgy mics) so I’ll defer to letterboxers Matt and MDF.

Petty thieves named Aspirin (Mang Hoi of Zu Warriors), Strepsil and Panadol accidentally end up with that secret microfilm that everyone in the 80’s was after. Wild-haired John Shum Kin-Fun and Tsui Hark must be buddies – they also costarred in RoboCop ripoff I Love Maria. Unfortunately for them, crime boss James Tien is after the microfilm, and supercop Michelle Yeoh and her British counterpart Cynthia Rothrock are on the case. This is in Criterion’s “Michelle Yeoh Kicks Ass” collection but the white lady kicks 70% more ass.

Cameos by three legends covered in sheetrock dust:

Tien in back with his two main henchmen:

I just sat back and took this one in. Took no notes, no screenshots.

Good movie, can’t remember much except that Sammo Hung plays one of the rival soldiers at the beginning, then reappears later as the powerful wizard LONG BROWS.

Extremely fun movie, opening with a powerful monk capturing an evil old man who’d been training for 100 years to ascend to human form, and I don’t know a whole lot about Chinese mythology but supermonk (Vincent Zhao, who took over the Once Upon a Time in China series after part 3) seems kinda like the bad guy. This is confirmed towards the end when he’s singlemindedly pursuing his enemies while carelessly destroying temples and drowning monks as collateral damage.

Green and Supermonk:

Supermonk has a tentative alliance with two snake sisters. White Snake (Joey Wong, lost in the huge cast of Eagle Shooting Heroes, also in the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy) is older and more powerful, while Green Snake (Maggie Cheung, at the tail end of her period of starring in ten films per year) is more bold and curious. They seduce some local guy (Wu Hsing-Guo), who will die along with White in the climactic supermonk-caused catastrophe.

Meantime we get colorful sets, giant snake tails, ludicrous side plots, tons of flying, great staging and action.

Wu Hsing-Guo, resurrected:

Previous stories and films based on this folktale have been named White Snake, so the titular focus on the younger sister indicate Tsui’s and Farewell My Concubine writer Lillian Lee’s intention to turn tradition on its head.

Been a long while since I watched a Tsui Hark movie. Pretty fun, with a cool title character played by the great Andy Lau, an enemy of the state given freedom by Empress Carina Lau (Mimi in 2046) to investigate why officials are spontaneously combusting into super fake-looking fire sfx. He teams up with court-appointed Jing’er (Bingbing Li of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a badass with her CGI whip) and albino Pei (Chao Deng) and the cave-dwelling, millipede-eating Donkey Wang to investigate, eventually discovers someone has a convoluted plan to crush the Empress during her coronation by toppling a massive statue. That someone is one-armed master builder Shatuo, an old ally of Dee who I would’ve known was the villain if I’d recognized him as Tony Leung Ka Fai (aka Tony 2 of Ashes of Time).

Politics: “A confession under torture is useless. Don’t you know that it’s torture which alienates people from the Empress and makes them turn against her?” I liked that Dee carried his pet birds with him on assignment, but it turns out that was only so the movie could have more things to set on fire. Speaking of the fake fire, there’s also an amazingly fake fight against CG deer.

Won a bunch of Hong Kong Film Awards but couldn’t beat Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere at the Venice Film Festival. IMDB’s summary calls it an “incredible true story,” haha.