The Latest from Hong Kong By Ann Gavaghan. Over the past year, the Hong Kong film industry has been churning out some seriously lackluster product. Its attempts to ape big-budget Hollywood productions have resulted in subpar movies like 2000 A...

Over the past year, the Hong Kong film industry has been churning out some seriously lackluster product. Its attempts to ape big-budget Hollywood productions have resulted in subpar movies like 2000 A.D. (see previous article) and Purple Storm (the story of Daniel Wu, the sissy terrorist). Worst of all was the release of Gen-X Cops on DVD after producers trumpeted a widescreen release in the United States; apparently, test audiences couldn’t stand the awful dubbing of the product, not to mention the cheesy storyline. I’ll admit that I love this film, but it’s definitely a guilty pleasure. After cutting through the salivating fanboy hype surrounding Hong Kong film, there are some real gems to be found—many of which are in categories that fanboys flee from, such as romance and dramas.

A docudrama worth watching is Fruit Chan’s Little Cheung which deal with lower-class Chinese communities in Hong Kong. Little Cheung follows the life of a Kowloon child immediately before the 1997 handover. He works as a delivery boy for his father’s restaurant, aggravates his Filipina housemaid, and befriends an illegal immigrant who offers to help him deliver food. Chan’s film doesn’t have much by way of a plot, instead, the director prefers to let things unfold as they would in real life. While the movie is slow in parts, it all adds up to a completely charming film.

If you’re looking for romance instead of reality, two films have come out which are sure to cause anyone to get a little misty-eyed, though none of them can be classified as “chick flicks.” Johnnie To’s Milkyway productions is known for its gritty crime dramas, so it was somewhat of a shock to see them release Sealed with a Kiss. The VCD packaging looks like the cover of a romance novel. What a surprise, then, to find an anything-but-storybook romance between a mute grocery storekeeper (Louis Koo) and a professional woman (Yoyo Mung) who stays in his house during a vacation. The whole film is filled with characters that are less than traditional, like Koo’s bald, sexually abused sidekick. I haven’t decided whether I love or hate this film yet, but it’s one of the most original pieces to emerge from Hong Kong this year.

Another unconventional film to appear is Twelve Nights, an update of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage. The couple in this film are Jeannie (Cecilia Cheung) and Alan (Eason Chan). Director Aubrey Lam shows us how they meet, mate, and become dissatisfied with each other. Although Chan has to deliver some brutal lines (“That dress makes your legs look fat.”), he’s still pretty impressive in his debut as a leading man. However, it’s Cheung who’s the real star of the film, and her acting at the end makes us want to reevaluate the entire relationship we’ve just seen unfold. While heartthrobs Nic Tse and Stephen Fung make cameos in the film as old flames of Jeannie, the best casting surprise comes in the form of Ronald Cheng, who has been involved in real-life romantic rumors with Cheung. (He’s best known on these shores for getting drunk and going berserk on a flight, leading to his arrest in mid-air.)

But if it’s traditional, fast ‘n’ furious crime flicks that you’re looking for, then pick up the box-office smash Tokyo Raiders. Jingle Ma made his directorial debut with the absolutely awful action film HOT WAR, but he redeems himself here. After a delicious opening sequence featuring handsome Tony Leung single-handedly taking on a group of Japanese yakuza, the picture just gets better and better as gangsters, the CIA, and private detectives all try to figure out the whereabouts of the fiancée of Macy (Kelly Chen). There are some nicely choreographed action scenes, including one where Leung makes a getaway on a motorized skateboard while the bad guys give chase on bicycles. In another, Leung faces off with “interior decorator” Ekin Cheng using a computer mouse as a deadly weapon!

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