Posts Tagged ‘Li Bingbing’

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME [DI RENJIE ZHI TONG TIAN DI GUO | 狄仁傑 之 通天帝國]

2010/10/18

http://www.emp.hk/

http://www.filmworkshop.net/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Tsui Hark Written by: Chen Kuofu  Story by: Lin Qianyu  Produced by: Tsui Hark, Nansun Shi, Peggy Lee  Cinematography by: Chi Ying Chan, Chor Keung Chan  Editing by: Chi Wai Yau  Music by: Peter Kam  Cast: Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Li Bingbing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Deng Cao, Teddy Robin Kwan, Jinshan Liu

There are many people who wish that Hong Kong cinema was still the way it was in its heyday, and I am probably one of them. What bugs me the most, and has bugged me ever since 1997, is that the liabilities of Hong Kong cinema have survived (the tedious humor, the flawed scriptwriting, the sloppy filming, the overacting, and so forth), while all its qualities seemed to have vanished over night. We were robbed of John Woo, Ringo Lam, Ching Siu-Tung, Tsui Hark, and most of all the magic made in Hong Kong, and were left with the imitators, the junk and all the rest that we put up with only because the show had to go on.

In recent years we have seen more attempts to bring back what I’d consider the “real” Hong Kong cinema, yet the renaissance never got off the ground, with the old masters remaining absent or concentrating on less-than-appealing projects, while the disciples were hampered by small budgets, a local audience that doesn’t care or their own doing-it-for-money attitude, while again others continued doing what they always did, like Wong Jing, hence keeping up the bad work nobody needs.

Now we all don’t know how the story will continue, but what we can say is that there’s a bright light on the horizon and its name is DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME. I am not going to suggest that the film is bringing anything to the table that we haven’t seen before, because it doesn’t, but what it brings to the table is what we have seen before but haven’t seen in a very long time, and that would be the point of watching, and enjoying, Tsui Hark’s latest gem, a movie that’s charming, creative, humorous and zesty like maybe no other film made in Hong Kong since the early 90’s (including Mr. Tsui’s own).

DETECTIVE DEE essentially is a historic crime saga, a Chinese Sherlock Holmes story, presenting a who dunnit case set in the Tang Dynasty. Shortly before Empress Wu Zetian is going to be crowned the first female Emperor of China, a series of mysterious murders is threatening to delay her crowning ceremony. She orders the incidents to be solved immediately so that everything can go ahead as planned, and she feels there is only one person who can succeed on such short notice: master detective Dee (a fictional version of the legendary official Di Renjie), who is serving time in prison for previously opposing her seizing the throne.

Once he is brought back and reinstalled as head of the justice system, he is in for a real rollercoaster ride, fighting against the Empress’ henchmen, political games, deception and conspiracy and the ultimate murder weapon, not to mention the many more murders that are following. Dee and his associates are running into traps and out of time, while the ceremony approaches and everyone’s fate is on the line.

Mr. Tsui seems to have learned from SEVEN SWORDS and has found just the right balance for a complex yet streamlined plot with DETECTIVE DEE, presenting a well-rounded, twisty, logical and believable script that boasts creativity while never derailing into a historic drama of encyclopedic proportions. Mr. Tsui also understands that taking yourself too seriously makes you vulnerable, and he has injected enough twinkle-in-the-eye moments into DETECTIVE DEE to make it fly with ease. At the same time it is as witty as it is enthralling, fast-paced and eloquent, displaying confidence and a great sense of what makes cinema cinematic.

The performances are top-notch, first and foremost Andy Lau (who still knows how to lead a movie despite starring in too many disaster movies) and the formidable Carina Lau, with Li Bingbing and Tony Leung Ka-Fai also being part of the illustrious ensemble. You can feel how much they enjoyed making this movie, it’s almost as if they had the same impression of traveling back in time that I had, shooting once again a Hong Kong movie how it was, and still is, supposed to be.

Fans will also be pleased to hear that Mr. Tsui has put considerable effort into the action sequences that look less like Sammo Hung’s work (which they are), but more like that of Ching Siu-Tung, resembling the trademark action of the late 80’s and 90’s as found in many of the classic swordplay epics. Coincidence or not, DETECTIVE DEE is getting as close as that is possibly possible to the Hark-produced, Ching-directed, genre defining A CHINESE GHOST STORY (the movie that most probably originally put Hong Kong cinema on the world map), made in 1987.

Having said that, I also dare to predict that fans of the old school Hong Kong cinema, as much as those who are relatively new to the genre, will be thrilled by DETECTIVE DEE’s breathtaking cinematography, superb martial arts sequences (many of which are better than most of those some self-proclaimed martial arts masterpieces have to offer) and a gripping story right until the end.

In a nutshell, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is awe-inspiring, and that’s not because it changes everything we know, but because it’s everything Mr. Tsui knows about film, in a film.

J.

 

 

 

 

 


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TRIPLE TAP [CHEUNG WONG CHI WONG | QIANG WANG ZHI WANG | 鎗王之王]

2010/08/05

http://www.facebook.com/TripleTapMovie

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Derek Yee Written by: Derek Yee, Chun Tin Nam, Lau Ho Leung Produced by: Henry Fong  Cinematography: Anthony Pun  Editing: Kwong Chi-Leung  Music: Peter Kam  Cast: Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Charlene Choi, Li Bingbing, Chapman To, Alex Fong, Lam Suet, Andrew Lin, Kenny Lo

A blind man would find a plot quicker than TRIPLE TAP does: Derek Yee’s movie is an amazing disaster with at least as many plot holes as bullets fired throughout its ninety-something minutes running time.

DOUBLE TAP was a quite solid B-movie, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t exactly qualify for a sequel. With a well-known and rudimental storyline, two main actors, a few fine action sequences and otherwise nothing noteworthy at all DOUBLE TAP was the kind of flick you watch when your satellite TV signal drops out during a thunderstorm or as an appetizer on a movie night with friends.

Yee nevertheless was inspired to do another installment, so now let’s have a look at the “improvements” over the original (I assume the objective of a sequel is to excel): an incredibly confusing story with Louis Koo playing a fund manager (!) who is also one of the best marksmen (!!) in town (aren’t we all leading a double life as master shooter), a heist that doesn’t make sense, actors that have the same what-am-I-doing-in-this-movie expression on their face as Andy Lau in FUTURE X-COPS, very talkative dialogues (while having nothing to say), a lot of male camaraderie that borders on gayness (I hope the way Wu and Koo are looking deep into each other’s eyes all the time was scripted; otherwise…) and a plethora of entirely unrealistic plot threads, plot points and behavior of all characters.

During the first third you’ll wonder what TRIPLE TAP is all about; by the end of the last third you may still not have comprehended more. Between the opening and the closing credits some shootouts happen, murders, police investigations, huge amounts of money are juggled with, women come and go dropping stupid one-liners. I’d say you simply stop caring after a while if you’d ever started to care in the first place. It never comes to the point that we feel for anyone in the movie, or are interested to find out what’s behind the heist and the beef these guys have with each other.

All we wanted from DOUBLE TAP was a bit of after hours action. All we get from TRIPLE TAP is three times the B-ness. A few aspects about the movie may be quite ok, but when all is said and done there can be no doubt that TRIPLE TAP’s most prominent feature is causing fatigue. If boredom was currency, Derek Yee would be a billionaire.

J.