I love a good old fashioned bit of action cinema, the more violent, hectic and stunt-laden the better. And where better to go for the excesses of action cinema, than the home of the “heroic bloodshed” genre, Hong Kong. And of course, what better era for such extravagance than the 1980s through to the mid-90s. This was back when death defying stunts, performed by super-human (or suicidal) stuntmen, were the norm, protagonists killed without remorse, and when the gore was done with blood packs, squibs and prosthetics rather than with CGI.
I feel like action cinema these days has become way too sterile and self-aware and I, like many others, find myself delving deeper into the past for violent entertainment, rather than bothering to keep up with the current crop of watered-down, blue colour filtered, shaky cam, video-game blood, action movies. With that in mind, I give you this week’s Starter Pack. This is by no means a list of five films that sum up Hong Kong cinema in its entirety, nor is it even an accurate cross section of all the facets and sub-genres of their action movies from that period, but it is a list of films that most people who, like myself, enjoy the exuberance of classic celluloid violence will find a tantalising entree to the chaotic meal that is Hong Kong Action Cinema.
HARD BOILED (1992)
Top of my list comes Hard Boiled, a movie that I often describe to people as porn for action fanatics. Directed by John Woo, who most of you out there will know from Face/Off, that Mission Impossible sequel and a bunch of other Hollywood films, and starring Pirates of The Caribbean 3′s Chow Yun Fat and Lust Caution’s Tony Leung Chiu Wai, this film is testament to the brilliant work that all of those mentioned above did during this classic period. Apparently, Chow Yun Fat was nearly killed by an explosion, and Tony Leung had a shard of glass splinter his eye, both the during shooting of the mind-blowing climax of this masterpiece. As far as storyline goes, Hard Boiled follows tough-as-nails cop, Tequila (Chow Yun Fat) as he pursues a crew of gangsters, lead by a personal favourite performer of mine, Anthony Wong (The Untold Story). Suffice to say, Tequila’s pursuit leads him into one beautifully choreographed, chaotic action scene after another. Beautifully shot, top-notch action, really, really fun. Enjoy the trailer.
HONG KONG GODFATHER (1985)
Machete and martial arts violence doesn’t come any more awesome than this. Hong Kong Godfather is the brutally violent tale of a retired gangster, dragged back into the game with tragic and spectacular results. The blood-soaked machete fight finale set in a shopping mall is truly awe-inspiring, though make sure if you see this, that you watch an uncut copy so you don’t miss out on a moment of the insane butchery. The US DVD from Funimation is uncut, but there are probably other uncut versions available if you give it a quick search.
In lieu of a trailer, I offer this from Hong Kong Godfather: one of my all-time favourite moments in any film. Enjoy.
POLICE STORY (1985)
It’s Jackie Chan. He is a cop. He is pretty much the most awesome cop ever, in fact. Enough said.
FULL CONTACT (1992)
Chow Yun Fat plays, Jeff (in the version I watched), a street hoodlum with a heart of gold. Jeff and his buddies team up with a rather more unsavoury gang, led by Simon Yam (Dr. Lamb) to perform a heist. Jeff ends up getting screwed over and left for dead. With everyone thinking he is dead, a pissed off Jeff rehabilitates himself and returns for revenge leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. Stylishly directed by, Ringo Lam, who made the … On Fire series and a few Van Damme movies, Full Contact is a vicious joy to watch with some fun twists, great performances and enough explosions and stunts to keep, even someone with my tiny attention span entertained.
YES, MADAM (1985)
Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock star as cops on the trail of gangsters in this entry into the sub-genre of Girls n’ Guns HK movies. Corey Yuen (The Transporter, No Retreat No Surrender) directs this classic that features much of his trademark fast-paced martial arts violence. The final scene of this movie is nothing short of brilliant.