BACK ALLEY PRINCESS
(Hong Kong 1973)
Original Title: Ma Lu Xiao Ying Xiong
Directed by Lo Wei Produced by Raymond Chow Action by Han Ying Chieh, Mars
Starring: Sam Hui, Polly Shang Kwan, Angela Mao Ying, Carter Wong, Feng Yi, Tong Liu, Han Ying Chieh, Tien Feng, Lo Wei, Billy Chan, Ma Wen Chun, Lee Kwan, Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Helen Ma, Wong Tao, Michael Hui
Reviewing: Joy Sales/Fortune Star HK VCD release
Genres: Drama / Comedy / Kung-Fu
Rating - 3.3 / 5
VCD Synopsis: Chilli Boy and Embroidered Pillow are two rootless drifters with a talent for all sorts of naughty acts. In a public square, they help a group of itinerant performers led by elderly Kong, to attract the crowds. Later they join Kong's group and live with them in a slum building. They often help the neighbours there with their wits. Though they have some vices with them, they gain sympathy from a lawyer, Tang, and are saved by him from being arrested when they are pick-pocketing. Then Tang brings Chilli Boy home, hoping to give him a brand-new life. Meanwhile, a series of severe things happen in the slum building. Facing the triad force, people who live there unite together to fight against them. They finally succeed to down with the triad force. Overwhelmed by praises, Chilli Boy's reveal her identity, saying: Believe it or not, I'm a girl.
Views: The delightful and multi-talented Sam Hui started his film career when he signed with Golden Harvest in 1971. It wasn't long before he was left in the hands of the infamous producer & director Lo Wei, who cast him in two memorable roles in the same year. The first was The Tattooed Dragon with Jimmy Wang Yu and Sylvia Chang, with his follow-up role in Back Alley Princess – a wacky kung-fu comedy, set in modern-day (1970s) Hong Kong. Sam shares the screen with kung-fu queen, Polly Shang Kwan, who plays Chilli Boy – a guy with boobs (?). The two stars play con-artists, often staging fake fights so they can raise some money for medicine from innocent bystanders who fall for their elaborate set-up. While on the search for their next meal, the pair befriend a bunch of street performers led by Tien Feng from Young Master, The Fate Of Lee Khan, and King Boxer. Feng's troupe includes some major names such as the amazing Angela Mao Ying, Carter Wong, Chin Yuet Sang, Lee Kwan, and others. After a successful night performing and Polly proving her kung-fu skills in a rooftop match with Mao Ying and her master, the pair are asked to join the troupe and quickly accept. All seems to go well for them in their new venture until one of the younger girls of the troupe gets sold to a gangster. It all leads to Hui and Kwan stepping up to save the day and leading their new brothers and sisters on a fight-filled, rescue mission!
While the plot for Back Alley Princess sounds simple enough, this Golden Harvest production is actually pretty nuts in many ways. The film opens with a crude animated-credit-sequence, much like a cheaper version of the classic Pink Panther movies, before jumping right into the gender-bender tale of Chilli Boy and Embroidered Pillow (Hui) that may seem a little dated today. For example, Polly is portrayed as a boy for most of the movie, but when she/he must go undercover to save her friend from a gangster, Chilli Boy disguises oneself as a girl to trick them. Then, in an odd turn of events, she gives away her big reveal at the end to show that she actually is a girl..!?! Anyone who doesn't know what they are watching or understands the long-time tradition of females playing males (and vice-versa) in Chinese theatres and movies, might just be a bit lost...
Having been in the business from the late 1940s, one would have expected Lo Wei to have perfected the art of direction by this stage of the game. After all, only a year before this he provided the world with Bruce Lee's fantastic Big Boss, and Fist Of Fury, as well as a host of other classics. But he never really was the strongest director in the world. That said, it seems that 1973 was a busy year for him with no less than 5 fine features behind him – none of which were small in scale by any means, with Back Alley Princess being a prime example. Large on cast, with plenty of drama and locations, the film could have done with a trim here and there, but still proved successful enough to see Wei return with Sam and Polly a year later for its sequel, Chinatown Capers. On a good note, Back Alley Princess benefits from having plenty of comedy, lots of neat kung-fu fights, and a cast of who's-who in early 1970's Hong Kong cinema including the aforementioned troupe members and the likes of Lo Wei himself, and a young Billy Chan, Lam Ching Ying, Mars, Wong Tao, Shing Fui On, Michael Hui, Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah popping-up in the background through-out. In fact, I would go as far as to say that had Lo Wei used Jackie Chan in Sam's role, we may have seen a different back-catalog of our hero today. Of course, it would be another few years before Lo Wei and Jackie would start their working relationship, but I think this would have been a great launching vehicle for a young Chan. It was interesting to see just how many films Lo Wei had made with (the then young) Golden Harvest studios, before breaking off a few years later to direct Jackie Chan in a number of movies – albeit, with mixed results before Golden Harvest lured him away with a promising deal.
While its middle may lag somewhat to allow for plenty of drama and some comedy situations, the last 30 minutes of Back Alley Princess makes for a fun ride as Polly and Angela set out on their rescue mission and infiltrate the mobster's brothel. This kicks-off with a few short scuffles leading to a lengthy and well-choreographed, end battle as they go up against some kung-fu veterans, led by the legendary Han Ying Chieh who plays the big-baddie of the show. Hing also served as the action-choreographer, with Mars helping on the stunt-work, and is a face known to many kung-fu film fans having starred in classics such as Dragon Inn, A Touch Of Zen, Fist Of Fury, The Big Boss, and many more. Although very chop-socky in style much suited to its time and era, the fights are a lot of fun to watch and provide some great moves – although without offering anything spectacular. The great Carter Wong only really gets to let-loose towards the end of the film as he takes on 6 or 7 armed men during a kidnapping, with the rest of the troupe and Sam, joining the action for the grand finale.
Overall: While perhaps a little too long in its running time, Back Alley Princess is a fun watch nonetheless and packed with stars!
BACK IN ACTION
Directed by Steve DiMarco, Paul Ziller Produced by George Flak Action by Shane Cardwell
Starring: Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Bobbie Phillips, Matt Birman, Nigel Bennett, Damon D'Oliveira
Reviewing: Hollywood UK DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Drama
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: Tough-guy cop, Frank Rossi (Roddy Piper) joins forces with martial arts expert, and former Green Beret, Billy (Billy Blanks) to bring down a gang of ruthless mobsters who have kidnapped Frank's girlfriend, and Billy's sister. It all leads to an action-packed rescue mission that sees bullets and feet fly, as Blanks and Piper get back in action!
Views: The period of Billy Blanks/Roddy Piper action-film team-ups in the mid-1990s, was far too short-lived for fans of the martial-arts-action film. Although they had only made 2 movies in total, this along with Tough and Deadly, the pair had an undeniable charm while sharing the screen together – something I would have loved to have seen continue, if not extended into sequels of their completed titles...
While it won't win any awards for screenplay (or acting, as most reviewers would state), with it being Karl Schiffman's first feature film as a writer, Back In Action still proves to be a highly enjoyable ride. The film is directed by Steve DiMarco, a television director who is still going strong today, and has behind many episodes on shows like Goosebumps, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Due South, Lost Girl, and many more. He is joined by Paul Ziller, director of martial arts features like Bloodfist 4: Die Trying, Shootfighter 2, and Moving Target, as well as a host of TV movies. It plays like any amount of 90s action-flicks that could easily have starred the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme, Olivier Gruner, or Dolph Lungren – but I think they cast the right stars for this. The acting certainly isn't the worst I've ever seen, with Piper and Blanks holding their own to some respect, but Back In Action also benefits from having the beautiful Bobbie Phillips on board. Bobbie had previously starred with Blanks in the fun sci-fi action film, TC 2000 just a year before, where she had gotten to show some sweet moves alongside the Tae-bo master as well as starring alongside Jalal Merhi, Matthias Hues, and the great Bolo Yeung himself. Unfortunately here, she doesn't get to offer anywhere near the same amount of moves but still looks great as the reputable reporter and Piper's love interest. Phillips would go on to star in Ring Of Fire 3: Lionstrike, with Don Wilson, Baywatch, X-Files, The Cape, Murder One, and star as Dee in the ridiculously popular, Showgirls. It's also worth noting that Matt Birman, who plays relentless bad-guy Chakka, has gone onto have an illustrious career in the film industry starring in over 100 films and TV shows such as Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Sanctuary with the wonderful Mark Dacascos, Bulletproof Monk, and The Strain, as well as working in stunt-work in over 200 titles like the Robocop series, Darkman movies, Jackie Chan's Tuxedo, Shoot 'Em Up, Shazam, and many more!
In terms of action, there's definitely a lot to enjoy here, from the opening gun battle at the graveyard to Billy and Roddy's fight in the bar, it's safe to say that action fans will not be disappointed. One fight scene sees Blanks getting to kick-ass in his boxers when a set of twins break into his home to attack. Looking like a couple of rejects from a Richard Simmons workout video, the McNamara twins get kicked and flung around the apartment with force, before Billy and his sister make their escape. From there on in, there's an action scene practically every 5 or 10 minutes making Back In Action one of the most action-packed, DTV movies of its era – or perhaps to come out of Hollywood overall. And while it doesn't highlight choreography that comes anywhere close to what Hong Kong was offering at this period in time – with Blanks already appearing in Hong Kong productions such as China O'Brien 2, King Of The Kickboxers, and The Master with Jet Li – stunt choreographer Shane Cardwell still delivers some impressive scenes, no doubt aided by the extensive martial-arts-experience of Billy Blanks and wrestling background of Piper. The closing action scene on a large ship lasts almost 15 minutes, mixing martial arts and gun-play with torture and explosions, in the most brutally fun way. As B-movie as this may be, you can't deny the film its charm and energy when it comes to entertainment.
Overall: Typically American and typically 90s in style, Back In Action is an enjoyable romp, with some violent action, buddy comedy, and plenty to enjoy!
(Hong Kong 2010)
Original Title: Mit Moon
(aka) King Of Triads
Directed by Dennis Law Produced by Dennis Law Action by Nicky Li, Hung Kai Sen
Starring: Simon Yam, Andy On, Ken Lo, Xiong Xin Xin, Michael Chan Wai Man, Jiang Liu Xia, Bernice Liu, Pinky Cheung, Eddie Cheung, Chris Lai, Lam Suet, Jack Wong
Reviewing: BonZai Taiwanese DVD Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Thriller / Triad
Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Crime lord Lok Cheung On (Eddie Cheung) runs a smuggling ring in Hong Kong. He gets caught during a failed counterfeit money operation in Mainland China and is executed. After he's gone, a deadly struggle for power breaks out within the gang, with a series of murders and assassinations aimed at members of the Lok clan. One by one, the various sons and daughters, and wives and mistresses, brothers and cousins fall as they turn on each other in paranoia. The overbearing Simon Yam, the seemingly benign Bernice Liu, the crippled Andy On, the gentle Chris Lai, or the mysterious dumb girl Jiang Luxia – any of them could be the mastermind behind all the ruthless killings – or his/her next victim.
Views: Dennis Law's triad-action-thriller kicks off running as a group of gangsters are chased through the streets by a large number of policemen. Dressed in Red-Ex uniforms to pass as delivery men, the gang includes the great Simon Yam, super-kickers Ken Lo and Xiong Xin Xin (Hung Yan Yan), gang boss Eddie Cheung, and the handsome Andy On. Backed into a scrap yard, the men split with Simon and Eddie escaping with a package as the rest hold back the cops with a number of impressive moves. The package in question holds two copper plates used for counterfeiting – something that their boss wants in his possession. While on the run, Eddie Cheung suddenly gets hit by a truck which leaves him flat on his back and surrounded by the police. Watching from afar, Funky (Simon Yam), stays out of sight and soon makes his way to join the rest who have since met with Zen – the more mature member of the gang, played by the one-and-only Michael Chan Wai Man (who sports an incredibly dreadful wig). It doesn't take long for Cheung to be led to his execution, leaving the gangsters short of a leader and a lot of tension among its members. Expecting to take over the role of her father, Audrey (played by Chinese/Candian actress Bernice Liu) invites her brother (Chris Lai) home for the reading of the will – something that sees them benefit from having everything left to them, all except the desired role as head of the family. That job goes to Simon, whose immediate demands anger more than a few contenders for the throne. As gang members start getting killed off and Audrey's brother dies in a car bomb, life in the crime family starts to get deadly as Audrey sets out for revenge and attempts to take control of the family, no matter what the cost!
Dennis Law has forever received nothing but bad criticism for his films – most of which do have an element of entertainment in them. He's one of the few Hong Kong directors that actually tries hard to recreate the very much-missed, golden-age of Hong Kong action-cinema, though often with flawed results. After studying film in LA, Law went on to work in real estate before Bad Blood presenter Charles Heung, coaxed him back into the movie world. Dennis worked as a producer with Johnnie To for a bit, before setting out on his own journey as a writer and director. And while both of these subjects have never been his strong point, Dennis still gets the job done, and more often than not with a great cast and crew involved, along with some pretty sweet moments that help save most of his films from being a complete car-crash...
And while it has its flaws, there are plenty of positives here in Bad Blood, with Law securing the services of his old friend (and one of my favourite directors), Herman Yau, as the film's DOP. Of course, there's that great cast he secured once again, marred by the fact that he doesn't really put the majority of his bigger-named stars to good use. Most of the greater moments are given to Andy On, Bernice Liu, and Jiang Lu Xia, with the likes of Simon Yam, Ken Lo, and Chan Wai Man coming across as very theatrical and OTT for the most part. This is all down to the script, which was written by Law himself in his typically straightforward – but very flat – way. I guess the biggest positive of Bad Blood, and what saves it, is the fight scenes which offer some of the most exciting and brilliantly choreographed action of 2010 thanks to JC Stunt Team member, Nicky Li. Having worked with Law on Fatal Contact and Fatal Move, Li once again delivers some amazing martial-arts-action joined by Huang Kai Sen, who has worked on many great movies as an actor and action-director, such as Invisible Target, Rob-B-Hood, Kiss Of The Dragon, and Black Mask. They prove to make a great team as most of the action in Bad Blood tends to be its most memorable parts. Highlights for me include the fight between Andy On and Xiong Xin Xin in the gym, the car-park fight where Andy and Jiang take on Chain Wai Man, Ken Lo, and 30 men – and any of the action scenes that shows Jiang Lu Xia, simply kicking ass.
While the fight for the throne may have served as the main story of the film, the sub-plot with Andy On and his mute friend, played by his True Legend co-star Jiang Lu Xia, was much more interesting. Aside from enjoying some one-on-one fights, the pair like to ride around town at night on their motorcycle, picking out gangs to fight against in a bizarre training method. It makes for a lot of great action and is close to the late 80's/early 90's Hong Kong style of film-making we all miss. With a hint of unspoken romance between them, I would like to have seen more of these two in the story overall. But alas, this crime-thriller is also known as the King Of Triads for a reason, although more notably should have been named Queen Of Triads, due to Bernice Liu's role as the twisted-sister Audrey. I haven't seen a lot of Bernice, and while her acting may be a little poor at times, her portrayal of Audrey is quite good. She definitely impressed in the action department also, landing a few neat moves against her opponents in the most brutal ways – although taking down some incredible fighters far too easily in my eyes...
Overall: Once you get past the flaws, Bad Blood features some fantastic martial-arts-action and stunts that will get any Hong Kong film fans excited!
BADGES OF FURY
(China/Hong Kong 2013)
Original Title: Bu Er Shen Tan
Directed by Wong Zi Ming Produced by Wang Chang Tian Action by Corey Yuen Kwai
Starring: Wen Zhang, Jet Li, Michelle Chen, Bruce Liang, Stephen Fung, Colin Chou (Ngai Sing), Wu Jing, Josie Ho, Alex Fong, Leung Kar Yan, Cecilia Liu, Tian Liang, Lam Suet
Reviewing: My Way/Kam & Ronson HK DVD Release
Genres: Comedy / Martial Arts / Action
Rating - 3.5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: In just 3 days, three cases of Smiling Murder shock Hong Kong. As he looks into the homicide, the young detective Wang Bu Er (Wen Zhang), the police station's reckless buffoon, makes a shocking statement that this is a serial murder. He and his buddy Huang Fei Hong (Jet Li) embarks on an investigation full of excitement and unexpected events. Huang may appear to be no less muddle-headed than Wang, but in reality, he is the real master of kung fu, and would, without fail,at the most crucial moments, help Wang get out of sticky situations. Wang initially believes that budding actress Liu Jin Shui (Liu Shishi) is the prime suspect, but later, she is found to be innocent. Next, he shifts his focus on her sister Dai Yiyi (Ada Liu), among others. Eventually, Wang decides to pose as Liu's boyfriend to lure out the murderer. The closer he gets to the truth, the greater the danger he is in...
Views: With a spate of murders happening across the city that leaves every victim with a smile on their face, super-cops Wen Zhang and Jet Li set out to find who is behind them. Their only link is that all the victims were dating the same unfortunate girl, giving Zhang the idea (and chance) to date her in a bid to lure out the killer...
Badges Of Fury sounds a lot more serious than it really is. The opening five minutes of the flick lets you know exactly what kind of film you are in for from its ridiculous death scenes to its nutty opening credits, not to mention the purposely dodgy CGI. The film yanks at its audience's legs like a classic Wong Jing version of a kung-fu Naked Gun movie. From the cute and hilarious Wen Zhang dressed in a kilt for a stake-out, to the legendary Jet Li poking fun at himself and his movies (with his character here named Huang Fei Hong for example) any fans and critics who have crushed this movie because of its misleading artwork, need to go back and have another go. The 10-minute mark gives us our first exciting bout of action, as the kilted Wen takes on the awesome Collin Chou with some crazy wire-fu during a roof-top party. The fight soon moves to a stairwell where (an extensively doubled) Jet Li takes over, leaping from floor to floor with some great moves and stunts that keep things exciting. As Li flies towards Chou with his leg extended for a final move, a door between them suddenly bursts open to reveal Zhang, in a cheeky (but welcoming) up-skirt shot as he whips out his gun – and at the same time, leaves poor Jet hanging in the frame as Chou escapes!
While I can certainly see the flaws of director Wong Zi Ming's first feature, it's definitely not as bad as most people are making it out to be. I've seen worse from seasoned directors, and while it may seem insanely stupid, messy, and over-the-top at times, no one would have made the same remarks had this been a product of Hong Kong cinema's golden era. It would have been just another crazy Hong Kong movie that may have starred Chow Sing Chi and Sandra Ng respectively while exchanging Jet Li for Gordon Liu and most likely calling his character, San Te. The film is packed with so much outrageous and overly ambitious comic situations, scenes, and camera angles, it can only be best described as a live-action cartoon. And at the same time, maybe that's its problem?! For a first-time director, Badges Of Fury was a big project in terms of its execution and energy, proving to be an incredibly ambitious and innovative movie. Two first-time writers are joined by veteran Charcoal Cheung Tan (honestly), the very same man who penned classics such as Once Upon A Time In China 2 & 3, Iron Monkey, The Assassin, Wonder Seven, and The Sorcerer And The White Snake which starred Jet Li and Wen Zhang, in 2011. With having so many amazing films behind him, you would think that Badges Of Fury may have been a little bit better, but at the same time, it's clear that Charcoal has written this script in a relaxed state in knowing that it was something he didn't really have to take too seriously. I must also point out, that it's obvious that he took inspiration from his aforementioned titles in regards to the action scenes here, bringing the fantastical wire-fu style of combat into a modern-day setting.
Apart from impressing with an incredible cast (alongside its main stars) with names such as Cecilia Liu, Wu Jing, Stephen Fung, Leung Kar Yan, Michael Yse, Alex Fong, Joe Cheung, Bruce Leung, Josie Ho, Fong Hak On, Lam Tze Chung, and Lam Suet to name-but-a-few, Badges Of Fury benefits from having the legendary Corey Yuen Kwai behind the action. With no shortage of fights, Yuen finds inspiration from his OTT wire-work in Romeo Must Die, blending it with more grounded works that provide some nice moments and crazy moves. And while his style may not appeal to everyone, it definitely works for the insane cartoon approach of the film and offers a lot of fun. Aside from the aforementioned opening fight scene, there are many highlights throughout including a great fight between Jet Li and Wu Jing in an apartment, with Zhang trying to help only to get hit at every move. There's a very fun battle between Zhang and the wonderful Leung Kar Yan which I just loved (Leung Kar Yan should definitely be doing more like this), a crazy bicycle chase through Hong Kong, and a one-on-one garage fight between Zhang and Stephen Fung that packs a punch. It all leads to an epic-end-fight between Jet Li and the awesome Bruce Leung (aka Liang) who returns to form in a role that resembles his character from the epic Kung Fu Hustle, with Yuen Kwai paying homage to Jet's final battle of Once Upon A Time In China to some degree. It all proves to be highly entertaining!
I say kudos to the director for delivering a pretty entertaining film. While far from perfect, Badges Of Fury is, a murder mystery all wrapped up in some plain-crazy-fun, with a host of great fight-action and a fantastic cast list. It's most definitely not like the artwork and promo materials that most distributors seem to be putting out there, and should not be taken seriously by any means. I'll not give away the ending, but I do recommend a watch for anyone who is a fan of classic Chow Sing Chi or Wong Jing comedies. The post-credit bloopers let you see just how much fun the cast and crew had during production, which sums everything up perfectly...
*Just to note – the UK release from Signature is 4 minutes shorter than its original version, and while cut, doesn't take away too much from the viewing experience!
Overall: Playing like a live-action cartoon, Badges Of Fury does have its flaws, but proves to be harmless fun and very entertaining at the same time!
DVD Extras: Trailer, Making of Documentary
(Hong Kong 1998)
Original Title: Sat Sat Yan, Tiu Tiu Mo
Directed by Donnie Yen Produced by Donnie Yen Action by Donnie Yen, Mak Wai Cheung, Hoh Choi Chow, Kenji Tanigaki
Starring: Donnie Yen, Annie Wu, Simon Lui, Vincent Kok, Jimmy Wong, Felix Lok, Karen Tong, Joe Hau, Mak Wai Cheung, Mike Woods, Yu Rong Kwong
Reviewing: Universe HK DVD Release
Genres: Drama / Action / Thriller
Rating - 4 / 5
DVD Synopsis: CAT is a killer drives on his pain to get revenge everyday. During his mission he meets his long awaited for WESLEY. Fierce combat starts, by mistake, CAT blackmails policewoman CARRIE as a hostage. During that period, CAT and CARRIE fall in love with each other and fight against other killers together...
Views: Having done his part as an action director, or uncredited director, in many films since the start of his career, the great Donnie Yen made a point of becoming a serious director around the late 1990s. This new venture was launched with the fantastic Legend Of The Wolf, released in many western territories as The New Big Boss. It was a great debut (though not without its flaws) and was soon followed by Ballistic Kiss and Shanghai Affairs the following year - two very different projects that certainly have their moments. While the latter would highlight Donnie in an ass-kicking role akin to that of a Bruce Lee movie, the former would allow the superstar to unleash his creativity as a film-maker, as well as star as a character that (to that point) he had never portrayed before...
Donnie plays Cat, a cool hitman who has always been somewhat of a lone-wolf since leaving his job as a New York cop. When he's not killing, Cat spends most of his days talking on the phone with a radio DJ (Simon Lui), where they discuss life and morals while live-on-air. As he thinks about calling it quits, Cat agrees to one last job, when he sees an opportunity to take revenge on an old partner that double-crossed him many years ago. But when the assassination attempt goes awry, Cat makes a run for it - taking a hostage along the way as a last-ditch attempt to escape. That hostage is Carrie, a policewoman who has unknowingly been working on his case and the one woman in the neighbourhood that has always caught his eye. Even as the truth comes to light, the pair start to fall in love during their time spent together with trouble not too far behind them, as revenge is on the cards and bullets fly!
While it may prove disappointing to new fans of Donnie's (who have really only followed the powerhouse since SPL) because of its lack-of explosive fight-scenes every few minutes, Ballistic Kiss still provides enough stylish Hong Kong action that won me over – almost as if Wong Kar Wai had directed John Woo's The Killer. And as if starring and directing wasn't enough, Donnie leads the action department where he is joined by Kenji Tanigaki, Hoh Choi Chow, and the great Mak Wai Cheung – all of whom had come straight-off Legend Of The Wolf. While Hoh had only a few credits to his name by this stage and Kenji mostly bit-part credits, Mak had been on the scene from the late 1970s working on films at Shaw Brothers such as Return To The 36th Chamber, My Young Auntie, and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, before going on to modern hits such as Yes Madam, Heart Of The Dragon, Magic Crystal, Tiger On The Beat, and other Donnie titles such as Tiger Cage 2, Fist Of Fury, and Satan Returns. In fact, his filmography is so highly impressive, he should be more widely known than he is. And while the action may seem less than usual for a Donnie Yen film and focuses more on gun-play in the heroic bloodshed sense, it still allows its star to throw some amazing moves – albeit in a very stylized way.
There's no denying that Ballistic Kiss is a damn good movie, as well as an important piece in Donnie's career. But if one thing lets the film down, I'd have to say that it's Bey Logan's script that could have done with some refining. That said, Yen works with what he has and delivers a great performance as the hitman with a heart. The lovely Annie Wu plays Carrie, the policewoman-turned-hostage who falls for Cat and does a fine job once again. I remember seeing Annie in Jackie Chan's First Strike (which was her first role), and from there in titles like Best Of The Best, Island Of Greed, and Gorgeous. It was also great to see the wonderful Mike Woods popping up for some action, having not worked with Donnie since the fun Cheetah On Fire, a good 6 years earlier. I've chatted briefly with Mike online a few times over the years, and he seems like a genuinely nice man. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of him in front of the camera after this, as he always proved to be a worthy adversary for Donnie or anyone who stood in his way. Donnie's Shanghai Affairs co-star (and star in his-own-right), the great Yu Rong Kwong, appears briefly for a fantastically memorable and action-packed, shoot-out against Yen with other cast members such as Simon Lui, Vincent Kok, Jimmy Wong, Felix Lok, and others doing a fine job...
The beautiful cinematography is courtesy of Hong Kong movie veteran Ally Wong Ka Fai, the man behind the lens on many classics such as Dreaming The Reality, Angel Terminators 2, Avenging Quartet, the remake of A Chinese Ghost Story, Donnie's own Painted Skin, and Legend Of The Wolf. Wong has also directed over 20 films during the course of his career, but to be honest I don't believe I've seen any of them so can't comment on that side of things. Regardless, the man does a fantastic job here in making Ballistic Kiss a gorgeously shot, art-house, martial-arts-thriller, with great lighting and interesting angles. On top of providing viewers with plenty of visual flairs and a steady pace, Ballistic Kiss is accompanied by a memorable score by Japanese pianist and composer, Yukie Nishimura, which reminded me a lot of a Studio Ghibli movie and works well with the overall tone of the film. Personally, I'd like to see this get a re-release on blu-ray and win the audience it deserves!
Overall: Heroic bloodshed at its most stylish and an underrated Yen flick, Ballistic Kiss is great and shows Donnie in a one-time-only role that doesn't disappoint!
DVD Extras: Cast Bio's, Trailers