You’d never expect a Hong Kong remake of a Eugene O’neill play, would you? Well, don’t expect it now either, ya moron.
Unless Chip Tsao gets his hands on a camera again.
Three centuries ago, a royal guard played by Yuen Biao is tasked with apprehending Yuen Wah, who’s been raping and killing women.
They have a big swordfight in the snow and fall down a cliff. The opening was filmed in Korea, and it’s nice to see something different in terms of the setting and background.
300 years later a team of Chinese scientists led by Elvis Tsui unearth the two frozen men. The scientists decide to take their find overseas, but transit in Hong Kong for the express purpose of going to the Volvo club, one of the leading hostess clubs of the time.
A gay joke or two later, the two Yuens are in Hong Kong where they get defrosted, electrified, and resurrected.
Cue lots of action and fighting and comedy, all of which is pretty damned entertaining.
Yuen Biao meets a hooker played by Maggie Cheung, and he slowly learns about life in 1989.
And we get to see things like huge mobile phones and pagers.
Maggie Cheung is very easy to watch, playing a coarse, pushy chicken who may feel something for Yuen Biao other than contempt.
There’s a typically funny Wong Jing cameo, too.
This movie is a classic in a lot of ways, and it’s a great example of what made Hong Kong movies so special once.
The pace of the film is pretty brisk, but that’s part of what I like about movies from this period. At times it seems a bit frantic, but it’s a lot of fun too.
The action and martial arts are top-notch, as well they should be.
Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah were Jackie Chan’s classmates in a Peking opera school, which makes them not just trained martial artists but acrobats as well.
They were both still young enough to do some amazing stunt and action work, including one stunt by Yuen Wah that defies description.
I almost sh*t myself when I saw it.
As was the fashion back then, the really good stunts get shown three times, from each camera angle, and usually in slow motion.
I know it’s not real fighting, but the physicality, or physical ability of these guys is still incredible.
There was no CGI back then, and your eye can definitely see that these stunts are real. These stunts are visually impressive on a level I can’t adequately express.
The stuntmen and the stars get thrown, dropped, and otherwise knocked around quite a lot, and you can see there’s usually no padding.
Another tradition back then was to make the bad guy really bad.
And Yuen Wah is really bad.
It may seem excessive, but the idea is that by making him so terrible, when he finally gets his comeuppance you feel even better because he was so evil.
The film was made in 1989, and there is use of the pejorative ‘Ah Chan’ to describe Mainlanders.
There are also discussions about students and repressive government figures and tanks.
I’m sure the new version won’t have any mention of those things, and not just because the story isn’t set in 1989 any more.
If there’s any mention of tanks, they’ll be Japanese.
The visual effects are dated, but I like the way they look. It’s hard to explain, but the aesthetic of these effects has a certain charm.
And if someone says “oh, they’re not realistic,” I wanna ask ‘how the hell do you know what it looks like when you put the Black Jade Buddha into the reincarnation wheel?’