hong kong movie reviews
i watch hong kong films that arent jackie chan sometimes
God of Gamblers (1989) - A tier
God of Gamblers is about Ko Chun, played by Chow Yun-fat, the world-renowned “God of Gamblers”, a James-bond-esque figure known for his slicked-back hair and characteristic love of Feodora brand chocolates.
The film starts with Ko Chun arriving for a high profile gambling match against a rival top gambler, where Ko Chun convincingly defeats his opponent at Mahjong and dice games with eerily supernatural gambling skills. In this regard it reminds me of Akagi (or its more well known sibling Kaiji), with his over the top confidence.
The similarities end there, though, as soon after he’s introduced to the major antagonist of the film, an accident befalls him as he falls into a trap not intended for him and bangs his head, losing his memory. The ones who trap him end up looking after him but are coincidentally swamped in gambling debts, complicating matters further.
I really enjoyed this movie for its over the top gambling sequences, the few action sequences it has which are characteristic of 80s hong kong action movies, and the main character’s love of chocolates reminds me of Jackie Chan’s mints in Armour of God. Overall it’s a silly premise and was fun to see in live action, and it’s a well renowned cult classic for a reason.
Pedicab Driver (1989) - A tier
Set in 1930s Macao, this movie follows a pedicab driver played by Sammo Hung, who falls in love while also getting in trouble with various gangsters and other groups. Pedicab Driver reminds me of a lot of Jackie Chan movies where he really isn’t doing anything wrong but keeps getting more in trouble with the bad guys anyway, and there’s also a lot of cool improvised fighting which is fun to see now that we’ve run out of Jackie Chan movies to watch.
The movie starts out as a fairly light hearted comedy movie with romantic elements, but despite this, there’s fairly brutal hits and falls throughout the movie and a lot of well choreographed fight scenes. It’s really well mixed together as the fighting is supported well by the story and doesn’t get in the way of the other elements of the movie. If I had one complaint, it would be that the film gets rather serious towards the end which is a bit mismatched with the quirky beginning. Despite this, it’s still a great piece of hong kong cinema and I give it a well above average rating.
Millionaires Express (1986) - A tier
Another classic Sammo Hung movie. This one is somehow a western and a kung fu movie, and has the biggest cast of characters I’ve seen in one of these movies. Just look at the poster, it has about 50 people on it.
I’m not really sure what was going on for most of the movie plot-wise but it’s very funny and basically involves about 10 different distinct groups, including samurai, kung fu guys, and the mafia getting on a train together and then eventually getting off the train at an unexpected destination and having a big fight at the end when clashes occur.
The movie is interspersed with cool fights, stunts, and lots of shenanigans and visual comedy. This movie shares a lot of its cast with the Lucky Stars movies and other mid 80s hong kong comedy movies which isn’t surprising given how many people are in it. Overall it’s great.
All three dragons (Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan) are present in this one but only Sammo has a starring role.
This movie is actually one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and basically stars Sammo Hung as a guy who goes to jail and then gets out at the same time as 4 other inmates who all end up living in a house together. The five start a legit cleaning company but unfortunately get mixed up with a crime boss when they accidentally come into possession of a briefcase filled with his money. They’re all basically dopes and play off each other and it’s really funny and gets into trouble.
One memorable scene has one of the five reading a manual on how to become invisible. The others realise this and pretend they can’t see him which results in hilarity. Jackie and Biao play Hong Kong police offers (nope, not Ka kui) and have a pretty cool fight in the middle of the movie. The end comes together pretty well too and the movie actually has a pretty good ending.
I really enjoyed this one and although it’s not a ‘main list Jackie Chan movie’ it’s still a classic and I’d recommend it.
Mr Vampire (1985) - B tier
A Jiangshi (chinese hopping vampire) movie produced by but not starring Sammo Hung (who, as I said in my Encounters of the Spooky Kind review, appears to be the originator of this movie genre). Pretty fun movie and the blu-ray is really high quality, reminds me of new fist of fury which has an unreasonably good remaster.
The taoist priest Master Kau and his inept students are hired to rebury some rich businessman’s father, hoping that it’ll bring his famliy more prosperity, but upon opening his father’s coffin he finds the body perfectly preserved instead of decomposed, and realises he’s turned into a vampire. The businessman insists that his father’s corpse not be burned because he was afraid of fire, which is pretty dumb, but the movie would’ve been way shorter if they just did that. Obviously the vampire comes to life and escapes, oh no! And then a lot of other stuff happens.
These hong kong movies always feel really long with everything that happens and they don’t waste time like a lot of western movies, but it’s really good. I like the part where the master is put into jail for a murder the vampire obviously did, and everything his bumbling students do. Oh and one of his students falls in love with a ghost which is pretty cool.
Carry On Pickpocket (1982) - B tier
A movie starring Sammo Hung (aka Rice Pot) as a member of a pickpocketing team. He stars alongside Yuen Biao and Richard Ng (the moustache guy from the lucky stars franchise). We get to see them going about their pickpocketing which is pretty cool, and then they get mixed up in some gang business. Sammo gets an opportunity to fight and there’s some pretty impressive fight-pickpocketing going on. Eventually there’s a big showdown.
It’s a pretty fun HK movie with a contemporary setting, and I enjoyed seeing the characters’ pickpocketing skills. The fights in the middle of the movie are pretty fun and the end is fairly brutal. It’s another movie where sooo much happens and I really enjoyed it.
Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) - A tier
A classic hong kong kung fu movie by Sammo Hung but with a supernatural twist. The film starts with a very wacky scene where Sammo encounters two ghosts/skeletons in wine jars. He then continues encountering spooky phenomena, including when his friends try to prank him with a fake candyman mirror routine where they get attacked by a mirror witch. Eventually someone hires a daoist witch to get rid of him, which results in him staying in a spooky temple overnight to prove how brave he is and win a bet, when actually he gets attacked by a jiangshi (tao zombie).
Other crazy things continue to happen to him for the rest of the film and he’s often forced to use his kung fu to deal with it, but there’s also fights between taoist witches and the like and something akin to a ki blast which is prety cool. Apparently this movie boot started the jiangshi film genre too along with a few of Sammo Hung’s other movies which is pretty cool, who knew he was involved. Like a lot of classic hong kong kung fu movies I’m sure Toriyama sensei saw this one at some point when he was writing Dragonball. Overall it’s a pretty good movie and a bit different from the usual kind of kung fu movies we watch while still being in the classic setting.
Future Cops (1993) - B tier
One of the wackiest movies I’ve ever seen, this movie is somehow a bootleg street fighter movie, a time travel movie, and an asian teen comedy all in one. The movie features Lung (Ryu), Broom head (Guile), Ti-man (Vega/Balrog), and Sing (Dhalsim), who are the future cops! After fighting “The General” (M.Bison/Vega)’s cronies Kent (Ken), Thai King (Sagat), and Toyota (E.Honda, lol) in 2043, they have to travel back in time from 2043 to 1993 in order to stop the general’s men from killing (in the past) the judge who sentenced the general to prison.
The movie starts off with a big fight between the future cops and the general’s men, before they use the time machine to escape into the past. The rest of the movie is just wacky humor as the future cops arrive in the past and have to infiltrate a school to find the judge and protect him.
This movie reminds me of Jackie Chan’s craziest movie City Hunter, except even more unhinged, and it’s like if the whole movie was the street fighter scene. By the climax of the movie, the rest of the street fighter gang have accumulated and there’s a big showdown, including other popular manga characters from the era, including some amazing ones. I see this one being pretty polarising but I laughed a lot and if you like cheesy bootleg comedy movies it’s great.
The Chinese Feast (1995) - B tier
A HK comedy film with cooking contests instead of kung fu fights about a master chef who’s fallen from grace and become an alcoholic, his wife who left him after he prioritized an elite cooking competition over the birth of their child, and mainly a young ex-triad loan shark who leaves to try and become a chef (for some reason) in order to move to Canada to follow his former girlfriend who moved there. He’s bad at it but lands a job somehow, where he meets the fourth main character who is an inspiringly crazy young woman, anyway and gets mixed up in some biz after his former triad members hold a meeting at his place of work. Eventually they’re forced into performing the legendary ‘Imperial Feast’ (which I don’t know if it’s real, but it’s sure bonkers) in a high stakes cooking competition.
The main character is quite shady since he’s an ex-triad loan shark, and cool and competent until he becomes a chef at which point he’s hilariously disasterous. He’s quite likeable and there’s a cute love story involving him which I enjoyed. There’s also some impressively fake but fancy cooking techniques used which made it fun to watch, and the titular ‘Chinese Feast’ itself involves some funky and impressive dishes. Overall I enjoyed the characters in this movie and the hijinks they get up to a lot and I’d recommend it to any fans of Hong Kong comedy films.
Look Out Officer (1990) - A tier
A wacky hong kong comedy film which is apparently a remake of a 1986 film called “Where’s Officer Tuba?” which stars Sammo Hung, but this movie doesn’t.
The movie starts with a hong kong police officer being killed by the leader of a gang, who fakes his death so it looks like he killed himself. He ends up in the afterlife before the judge and can’t go to heaven because of this. He ends up bribing the judge to allow him to go back to earth as a ghost and avenge his killer. When he gets there, he meets the young, green police offer who replaced him, and makes a deal with him to help him out in love and life, in exchange for helping to avenge his death.
This movie contains a lot of wacky magic stuff and is pretty funny. It feels like we’re in the deep lore of hong kong movies now since I can’t imagine many people outside of hong kong have seen or even heard of this movie. I really enjoyed it.
The Prodigal Son (1981) - B tier
This movie has a high incidence of what we’ve taken to calling ‘the haircut’ (if you watch it you’ll know what I mean) (apparently it’s called a Queue and dates back to the Qing Dynasty).
Enter the Fat Dragon (1983) - B tier
Jackie doesn’t star in this one at all but it’s a fun movie about a Sammo Hung who styles himself as a wannabe bruce lee. He moves to Hong Kong from the sticks to help out his family business but basically ends up wrecking it and getting involved with bad guys by fighting.
Sammo is always hilarious and seeing him play off bruce lee, including against an actual bruce lee impersonator on a movie set, is pretty fun. Overall decent.
This movie is one of my favorite romantic comedy movies. It’s kind of like trading places, except a rich guy (played by Chow Yun-fat, the God of Gamblers) wants to be a poor guy because it sounds like more fun, so he just leaves his old life and starts working in some low-end restaurant and makes a bunch of new friends. It’s lovely.
The Return of Pom Pom (1984) - B tier
The first sequel in another Hong Kong comedy series, Pom Pom, which is a spin-off of Lucky Stars. If you liked Lucky Stars’s antics like me, then you’ll probably like this movie. It didn’t blow me away but I enjoyed it anyway. It stars Richard Ng, the mustache guy from Lucky Stars, so it’s automatically good in my eyes.
Carry On Hotel (1988) - A tier
Carry On Hotel is a bit of a variety movie, with a number of different stories centering around employees and guests of a hotel. They seem to have borrowed the name for this movie fromt he british “Carry on…” series which is a strange choice.
It’s basically a bunch of wacky humor with some extra elements in some of the side stories, for example one is a comedy story about a tomboy mechanic who wants to date one of her coworkers but he just keeps noticing other girls and expecting her to be his wingman. In another story Richard Ng, a supposed practicing ninja, is mistaken as the ceo of the hotel in a series of hilarious misunderstandings.
Overall one of my favorite hong kong movies, I dunno why it has a low rating on IMDB.
Righting Wrongs (1986) - B tier
A solid martial arts action movie starring Yuen Biao (one of Jackie’s team) and a western actress called Cynthia Rockrock.
I wasn’t familiar with Rockrock before this movie, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Yuen Biao in a starring role without the other dragons (Jackie & Sammo), and it actually really works in this movie. The chemistry between Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock is great, and generally this made me sad that both Yuen Biao didn’t have more starring roles, and Rothrock doesn’t seem to have made many movies, but I’ll definitely be following her from now on.
This movie becomes really brutal, especially towards the end, but there’s some extremely memorable fight scenes (like top ten). Rockrock especially appears to be a talented martial artist up there with Yuen Biao and has much more personality than most other western actors in these movies which goes great with it.
Very good, would probably be A tier if I liked serious, action-heavy movies more and so many more movies already pushed it out.
Fat Choi Spirit (2002) - A tier
Another gambling movie in the vein of God of Gamblers but sillier, and this one is about Mahjong, which I’m super into ever since we watched Akagi. (But I still don’t understand it.)
This movie is about a prodigious mahjong player, played by Andy Lau, (who actually ended up starring in some of the God of Gamblers spinoffs alongside Steven Chow, fun fact!). I don’t remember the details at this point very well but there’s family matters involved, and somehow he ends up battling this mahjong scam ring who mix things up and confuse people by playing all different variants of mahjong and feeding each other tiles. He also loses his mahjong powers at some point?
I actually liked this movie more than God of Gamblers so although relatively more obscure it deserves its slot in A-tier.