Posts Tagged ‘Vivian Hsu’

HOT SUMMER DAYS [CHUEN SING YIT LUEN – YIT LAT LAT | 全城热恋热辣辣]

2010/08/14

http://movie.foxmovies.com.tw/

HONG KONG / CHINA / USA 2010  Directed by: Tony Chan, Wing Shya Written by: Wing Shya Produced by: Fruit Chan, Paul Cheng  Cinematography by: Sion Michel  Editing by: Wenders Li  Music by: Eddie Chung Yan-Tai Cast: Nicholas Tse, Jacky Cheung, Rene Liu, Vivian Hsu, Barbie Hsu, Yihong Duan, Xinbo Fu, Angela Baby, Daniel Wu, Boran Jing, Zhuoyan He, Conroy Chan Fruit Chan, Phat Chan, Maggie Cheung, Jan Lamb, Michelle Wai, Shawn Yue, Joey Yung

Nothing beats HOT SUMMER DAYS in terms of star appeal, and few movies manage to put a star-studded cast like this to good use. The comedy / satire / romance is about, surprise, hot summer days in the Chinese territories, when temperatures rise to the boiling point and people go nuts. Not nuts like in FALLING DOWN, but for everyone in HOT SUMMER DAYS the period of exceptional heat seems to throw their lives off the regular track.

In the center of the story are ex-driver Wah and unsuccessful pianist Li Yan who have an SMS-relationship but never met personally. Both struggle with their careers, working McJobs to survive instead of doing what they were destined to do. Then there’s an air conditioner repair guy who’s interested in a crazy biker chick, and a sushi master who tries to get his relationship worked out with writer Wasabi; plus many other romantic or dramatic stories that take place during this one-of-a-kind heat wave.

HOT SUMMER DAYS is a classic omnibus movie with many different stories going on at the same time. However, these are mostly not related like in other films but are only connected through the locations and the heat wave scenario. The concept works very well and trying to complicate the various plot threads would have probably diverted our attention (and probably that of the writers) unnecessarily. HOT SUMMER DAYS concentrates mostly on the characters, and that makes for charming feel-good entertainment.

It is noteworthy that HOT SUMMER DAYS is not just a bland star vehicle like most of the Chinese New Year movies that have everything except a story to tell. Despite being a romantic comedy by genre HOT SUMMER DAYS is a serious movie indeed; whether or not all the stories have the depth you expect is a question everyone has to answer for her-/himself. But overall the movie is an example of discerning entertainment – maybe that isn’t too surprising after all, seeing one of the “heroes” of the independent Hong Kong cinema involved in the production, Fruit Chan of MADE IN HONG KONG / LITTLE CHEUNG / DURIAN DURIAN fame).

HOT SUMMER DAYS is spot-on mainstream cinema that at the same time is indie enough to satisfy true film buffs. While nothing’s perfect, the movie knows very well how to balance black humor, serious moments and the lightness of being. HOT SUMMER DAYS is enjoyable from beginning to end, proving that it all comes down to a big idea, good story and a non-fuzzy way to tell it.

J.


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FIRE OF CONSCIENCE [FUR LONG a.k.a. HUO LONG | 火龙]

2010/05/15

http://www.mediaasia.com/fireofconscience/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Dante Lam  Story: Dante Lam Written by: Wai Lun Ng  Produced by: Dante Lam, Candy Leung  Cinematography by: Charlie Lam, Chung-To Tse  Editing: Ki-Hop Chan  Music: Henry Lai Cast: Leon Lai, Richie Ren, Baoqiang Wang, Vivian Hsu, Kai Chi Liu, Michelle Ye, Wilfried Lau, Charles Ying, Vanessa Yeung, Pinkie Cheung

Wow. Hard to believe Hong Kong can still produce something like this. Brash, straight forward, undiluted, no funny hats. But then, it’s director Dante Lam behind FIRE OF CONSCIENCE who has brought us some of the most exciting action movies of the late golden era of Hong Kong cinema, just as much as he is one of the last men standing to deliver the goods in the 21st century.

FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is how we’d expect it to be, and then it’s not. Blending some of the most (over)used motifs of Hong Kong crime thrillers it elevates the story that revolves around various connected cases of murder and robbery, a depressed cop who lost his wife and baby in a seemingly random attack and police corruption as expressed through a rogue and unscrupulous senior police office far beyond your average actioner.

Not much seems new here at first, but I’d refrain from saying that Dante Lam’s FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is just thick and sugary eye-candy covering up the lack of substance. On the contrary, I feel that Lam goes as far as that is virtually possible with an action thriller like this. FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is as good as it gets indeed: a strong and convincing drama, an intriguing and complex story of fate and betrayal, a hyper-violent action fest and an enormously tense thriller.

It may not be up to the ISO-standardized script excellence of Hollywood and indeed misses inescapable logic at times, but other than that Dante Lam’s FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is competing with the iconic works of Michael Mann or John Frankenheimer.

If you have grown up with the Hong Kong cinema of the 80s and 90s you will quickly realize how much FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is revisiting the same motifs, relationships and places while at the same time breathing the post-97 spirit and a todayness characterized by a strange where-do-we-go-from-here melancholy.

With all political and administrative systems working and new rules in place after the handover it almost seems like the time was ripe to get a taste of the street again. Leon Lai (finally his long-awaited come-back to action cinema) is like a modern Taxi Driver, a depressed loner, good cop but often erratic lunatic who is motivated by finding his wife’s killer and sleeping in his car ever since the murder happened. He’s on a permanent lookout, yet it’s like only the street feels like home, feels real, makes him feel alive.

Then there’s the mainland gang, a cliché used in many of modern Hong Kong crime films. But something is different here, again. Never since the late 80’s I felt that the “mainland criminal” is more than a biased image of the quintessential villain and the perfect concept of the enemy for a Hong Kong audience. Not this time: in a way Lam is returning to the LONG ARM OF THE LAW realism, drawing a similar picture of people who become criminals out of necessity, not because it’s fun.

Their desperation, dependence and hopelessness are well captured in FIRE OF CONSCIENCE and personified through one poor chap who is used and abused by the ruthless masterminds. But even the leaders of the gang, being the cold killers that they are, have this aura of “going-nowhere”. It’s not because this mission is their endgame (it is not meant to be), but because they know there’s nothing left to lose, and moreover nothing left to gain, now or ever.

It is no surprise to see that the ones having everything – a beautiful soon-to-be wife, a big house, a good career – are in no way different from the ones who have already lost everything. While Detective Manfred (Leon Lai) has something to live for (finding the killer of his wife) Inspector Kee (Richie Ren) has literally been robbed of that last reason to keep going. Or at least that’s how he sees it.

Honor and loyalty are values of the past; honor is down the drain and the only loyalty left lies with the biggest monetary gain, or with the loved ones long gone. What drives both men nevertheless is their Zodiac – the dragon that makes them powerful leaders, but also makes them think that they can do anything and get away with it. They can’t. There’s always a price to pay.

Dante Lam is staying true to his formula yet excels himself, setting a new standard for high-octane action movies made in Hong Kong anno 2010 altogether. With over-the-top action sequences, highly emotional moments, gripping dialogue and some memorable set pieces like the opening sequence and some gruel shootouts, FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is the best HK action movie since I don’t know when.

Watching FIRE OF CONSCIENCE evokes memories of some of the best movies of this kind, of the aforementioned LONG ARM OF THE LAW, but also John Woo’s HARDBOILED as well as one of my all-time favorites, Ringo Lam’s FULL ALERT. It speaks for the quality of FIRE OF CONSCIENCE that it doesn’t remind me of any of the latest productions. FIRE OF CONSCIENCE may not be able to repeat the greatness of some of the classics, but it delivers a kinetic rollercoaster ride second to none by today’s standard, wonderfully written, acted and photographed.

Usually I’d give FIRE OF CONSCIENCE four stars as not everything’s perfect, but just for the sake of a 2010 movie that actually looks and feels like some of the best movies done in Hong Kong in the 90s, I give it another star. Call me nostalgic, but looking back isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you can even learn for the future. Just ask Dante Lam. He knows.

J.