Hong Kong cinema is a bottomless pit. Even trying to get a handle on a single genre in a tiny space of time, there is a constant stream of new films tumbling out of the woodwork. This, of course, is awesome and part of the reason why Hong Kong cinema is so addictive. Unfortunately, it also means that some truly brilliant films are almost entirely lost in obscurity. This is why I want to talk about Revanchist.
original title: 新報仇 (Xin bao chou)
Hong Kong, 1994, Chong Yan-Gin
The film then takes the first of a handful of significant narrative turns, placing its focus on Fay. Fay gets back to work with his gang and is sent undercover to find out whether a rival gang led by Shu (Wang Hsieh) is collaborating with the invading Japanese. Undercover, Fay comes head to head with Shu’s scummy right hand man and martial arts master, Ti Chi (Zhang Feng-Yi), and things get really bloody and really messy and occasionally sexy.
Despite its CAT III rating, I did not expect much from Revanchist. It’s a co-production with China and Taiwan, which made me a little nervous. The Taiwan connection is not worrying, but involvement from the Mainland generally spells doom and dashes any hope of a good, brutal film, but not in this case. Revanchist is a blood-drenched triad drama with some of the most insane, gravity-defying martial arts and gunplay I’ve seen.
For its first act, I was entertained, but not exactly blown away. There was a particular scene that made me sit up, and I started to realise I may be in for quite a treat. An elaborate contest is held by Fay’s gang. Costumed triad members must climb a gigantic structure and make it to a throne at the top to ascend within their organisation. We’re treated to a wire-fueled display of martial arts and gymnastic skill — exactly the sort of exciting and outrageous action I crave in a Hong Kong production.
From this point on, Revanchist continues to fill the screen with explosive action. While it doesn’t quite live up to its CAT III stamp (I’ve seen much harder CAT IIBs), the fight scenes are jaw-dropping, albeit utterly fantastical. Feng-Yi, Sek-Ming and Jian-Li fly through the air with the tiniest jump, guns pump out endless rounds, characters survive hundreds of bloody bullet wounds and sword slicings. Even its moments outside the action are fairly nuts, especially a scene where a wedding is interrupted by a sobbing, mid-suicide father-in-law with three swords sticking through his abdomen.
Its gory final showdown between hero and villain is pure madness. I loved it so much that I had to rewind the entire sequence and watch it again right after the credits rolled. It puts far better known Hong Kong actioners to shame. Here’s a brief sample of the goods…
Despite Hong Kong obscurities’ ability to hide in the shadows, it’s still rather shocking that Revanchist isn’t more widely seen. Perhaps my lack of expectations is making me overstate the film’s quality, but it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Hong Kong action flick this much.
Depressingly, as you can probably tell from the stills and clip above, Revanchist has only very shoddy home video releases. It’s available on an out of print VCD, and can also be found on DVD in Taiwan (the quality is reportedly exactly the same as the VCD). I wish this would get a decent re-release.