# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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Fist To Fist (1973) Directed by: Jimmy L. Pascual

Although listed as assistant director, John Woo directed all of or a significant part of this basher two years before his actual debut The Young Dragons. Even a story strand about a blind girl appears here and it's perhaps no coincidence it's an integral part of John's 1989 heroic bloodshed classic The Killer too. Fist To Fist (aka Fists Of The Double K) is not working with scope, tons of extras or even complex story as police officer played by Henry Yu (also lead of Woo's debut) heads to an abandoned town run by bandits to take revenge. Which is fine as a frame work if you paint your genre well with the element expected out of you. Fist To Fist delivers exceptionally well in the second half in particular (first is quite an uneventful trek) as concepts of an opponent with a knife in his ponytail and Yu with a sharp boomerang slicing his foes are executed with admirable intensity and skill. But being a basher, the Yuen Woo-Ping and Yuen Cheung-Yan choreographed action gets time to shine in several extended, intricate and primal fight sequences. Simon Yuen and Fong Yau also appears and further members of the Yuen family can be spotted in the roles of 'thugs'.

Five Friends Of Tai Po's (1989) Directed by: Chou Tan

So disconnected from its audience that you only ever notice two friends as the core of the story, Chou Tan's mix of young adults doing their utmost to desperately find love passes by without effect. Also preassured through poor situations in home lives, decisions on further education, the film is energetic and peppered with pop songs so certainly not as low in frequency as something like The Story Of Pei-Li by Chou Tan. But merely basic acknowedgement of what's even going on here as the latter reels involve a loyalty no matter thread is what one gets out of Five Friends Of Tai Po's.

Five Girls And A Rope (1992) Directed by: Yeh Hung-Wei

Co-produced by King Hu acting regular Hsu Feng, early images of the young girls dressed in red having hung themselves is a terrific, eerie start to trigger curiosity. And for a while, Yeh Hung-Wei (Home In My Heart) paints a tragic picture of some of these girls as they are stuck with tradition, village superstition and darkness that gets inflicted on either them or their friends. It's all very episodic, questionable in terms of the film deserving its darkness but the starkness combined with a static direction works for at least half a flick. But the difficulty in relating to customs on display and telling the characters apart ultimately makes Five Girls And A Rope outstay its welcome. The journey leading up to the deadly fates has its opportunities to shake you in a low-key way but director Yeh loses us over the course of the 2 hours, despite the final moments leading up to the opening reel shot being quite superbly eerie as well.

Five Shaolin Masters (1974) Directed by: Chang Cheh

Lensed in Taiwan by Chang Cheh's company (Chang's Film Co.) and distributed by Shaw Brothers, the stars that made films on the giant backlot in Hong Kong may be here in Taiwan as well but this is scaled down to the point where it literally feels like one of many non-studio, independent productions. Which it was. With mostly an action-agenda on its mind anyway, that wouldn’t had been a problem in a shorter film but Five Shaolin Masters is way too bloated for such a simple film. Shaolin Temple has burned down and the Manchu's are pursuing the Han rebels. The group of characters David Chiang, Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun and Mang Fei plays ward off a number of attacks, join their fellow rebels and train in seclusion for a year in order to take on the primary Manchu oppressors for the 20 minute fight finale (the colorful team of Leung Kar-Yan, Fung Hak-On, Tsai Hung, Kong Do and the Han-betrayer played by Johnny Wang). That's your traditional template that entertains when we finally get to the conclusion and Lau Kar-Leung and Lau Kar-Wing's choreography showcases a number of styles and weaponry. This is fun and variation that would’ve been served better with 20 minutes of outdoors stuff yanked.

Five Superfighters (1979) Directed by: Joe Law

A teacher (Hau Chiu-Sing) is disgraced as he loses to a black caped villain (Kwan Fung) and his three students (Austin Wai, Tony Leung Siu-Hung & Ng Yuen-Jun) go away to train for a year. Finding a farmer woman, a fisherman and a drunken beggar, the combined effort of working for pay leads to combined acquired skill. Although clearly a desperate response by Shaw Brothers to bring the audiences the trendy type of kung fu comedy made popular by Jackie Chan and possessing no star power to make an impact, it's also wise to turn off the critical mind and appreciate that they had action director Hsu Hsia on board to deliver fine and corresponding trend elements in the form of martial arts.

The Five Venoms (1978) Directed by: Chang Cheh

Even though reportedly Chang Cheh’s films from the mid 70s and onwards didn’t do great business in Hong Kong or other Asian territories, the discovery and assembly of six performers from both Hong Kong and Taiwan (with a combined background in Taiwanese opera, martial arts, acrobatics and weapons  etc) collectively known as The Venoms made an impact culturally in the West. Chiang Sheng (The Student), Phillip Kwok (Lizard), Sun Chien (Scorpion), Lu Feng (Centipede), Lo Meng (Toad) and Wei Pak (Snake) had been making small appearances individually across Chang Cheh’s films from 1975 and onwards such as Marco Polo, Naval Commandos and Shaolin Temple but this was the movie to present each of them and their distinctive styles. A presentation that took in the West in particular (for instance, the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan sampled dialogue from the film for multiple songs), the go to distributor in America for many Shaw Brothers films, World Northal, re-titled the film The Five Deadly Venoms and a series of unrelated ‘Venom Mob’ films would follow, despite this 1978 group not appearing together in every one of the films that followed. As a maker who clearly liked to scout and nurture talent, the film saw Lu Feng and Robert Tai as two thirds of the action directing team and the likes of Chiang Sheng and Phillip Kwok would step behind the camera in the same capacity as they continually appeared for Chang Cheh for the rest of the decade and into the 1980s. The Five Venoms was a breeding ground and it also gave us, even though Chang Cheh apparently didn’t feel so in retrospect, a rejuvenated maker.

Centering the film around a crime, the murder of a family rather than a string of fight scenes and unavoidable tropes because the film is playing in the genre-pool that it is, The Five Venoms likes to take its time to talk things through and bring out the spectacle only when needed. It earns our patience but impresses through a visual presentation that pops more than usual. Especially evident in the introductory scenes of the masked Venoms and how their individual snake, lizard, toad style and so forth is presented. With Mario Bava style lighting blasting the training chamber this all takes place in, no wonder The Five Venoms found an international fanbase but it’s impressive it did considering how dialogue-heavy the narrative is. People had patience and for those who had gone through Chang Cheh’s Shaolin-cycle of films prior, watching this marked a shift into new and unseen performers, style and storytelling. Making sure each actor feels distinctive (Wei Pai’s glaring is perhaps not very refined and nuanced but I suppose you need to know who is evil) and not just their physical style and prowess standing out, the group looks confident, special and selected. Like they have to live up to a task because their director believed in them and there’s no rookie jitters here. Even Chiang Sheng in the disguise of a beggar balances the comic sensibilities against the seriousness very well. The actual case also unfolds with some surprising turns and tense beats as corruption and manipulation leads the excess bloodshed and torture. When the film does showcase its bread and butter in the fight-department, not only is the hand to hand fluid and exciting but the team of choreographers find clever moments to emphasise the animal-styles that does venture into the fantastical but nevertheless combines well with the mystery-narrative. Also with Johnny Wang as a court justice and therefore he doesn’t engage in any action, Ku Feng in a key role and Dick Wei as the Head Of Five Venoms House.

Flash Future Kung Fu (1983) Directed by: Kirk Wong

Kirk Wong's multi-nominated sophomore effort is quite a puzzler. Expect comparisons to Mad Max, a futuristic battle between traditional martial arts and the neo-Nazi goons of the future. All set to a frenetic synthesizer score and embedded in rough production design. Arguably the latter is where Wong deserves his most acclaim. Clearly not a lot of budget came with this production and instead Wong simply decorates his future with lo-fi, strung-together equipment akin to what Brazil did shortly thereafter to cool effect. Wong almost seems to offer up an arthouse aura as dialogue is kept to a minimum, relying more on atmosphere and the mentioned score. The result is questionable as it certainly isn't much of a film but you stick with it, waiting to see what may come next as very few aspects registers as conventional, even coming from Hong Kong cinema! Eddy Ko, Johnny Wang, Ray Lui stars and Elvis Tsui appears briefly in a fighting role.

Flirting In The Air (2014, Aman Chang)

One of the rare Wong Jing productions (he served as writer here too) of this modern era that gets its comedic and parody-intentions right. A group of confident, overly sexual pilots (Chapman To, Lam Tze-Chung and Dominic Ho) gets sent back in time where things get meta as they encounter Stephen Chow's character from Flirting Scholar and the cartoony shenanigans are on. Shot in a very vibrant way and well handled by Aman Chang, it's not easy to just go for the cartoony nature (and especially one channeling Stephen Chow's comedic style of the past) but the tone is largely correct. Fast, out of control gags come and go, anchored by a confident Chapman To and playful, visual style. It seems thin on plot but the basics acting as springboard for situations rarely feel strained or done in an overly desperate way to please. Especially successful when bringing on Charlie Cho's character, he essentially becomes a variation of Tom from the 'Tom And Jerry' cartoon mixed in with his usual, lecherous screen image in a variety of rude gags that are low but funny (the nipple chewing scene for instance). It can feel like a way too local film and hard to penetrate but Flirting In The Air still is successful at what it wants to do. And despite the retro throwback, it isn't Wong Jing on repeat for once.

Flirtong Scholar (1993) Directed by: Lee Lik-Chi

Released in Hong Kong as Flirtong Scholar (I'll go out on a limb and say it's a typo), Lee Lik-Chi lets the curtain rise and we're into led very typical Hong Kong nonsense comedy, with the verbal dexterity of lead Stephen Chow at center. Now, Flirtong Scholar is really a perfect example of why Chow's film can't or shouldn't travel. A Western viewer such as myself remains constantly on guard, trying to figure out why over the top behaviour of characters and muddled subtitles are direct references locals would catch onto and hail as comedic scenarios of masterpiece status. Yep, there seems to be a lot of that and Chow never makes a secret that his jokes are going to be Cantonese in nature. Still, I think, and I repeat that... I THINK credit still must go out to the filmmakers for making an ounce of the comedic behaviour and in-joke structure travel to the extent that a Western viewer may think of it as off-beat in an entertaining way. It's problematic if you want it to be.

But there's silliness in the expected UN-expected rapid pace jokes, something Chow rarely has a problem nailing. Add onto that some new wave kung fu action and special effects of the Zu-kind and you've got yourself a local comedy with luggage that does arrive in torn but workable condition when reaching the West. I recommend trying it on. The film also possesses the welcome cast of Gong Li, Cheng Pei-Pei, Gordon Lau, James Wong, Kingdom Yuen, Francis Ng and Leung Kar Yan.

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Floating City (2012) Directed by: Yim Ho

Yim Ho's (Kitchen) return to filmmaking after a 7 year gap for whatever reason, he has Aaron Kwok's Bo Wah-Chuen recap his story for Floating City. Being adopted, half Caucasian, half Chinese and also part of the ethnic group called the Tanka people, his destiny in life looks to be living on a fishing boat with his family but he works his way up the ladder eventually at the Imperial East India Company. But is this a way to solve his identity struggle? Certainly a not often examined ethnic group in Hong Kong cinema but even a familiar dramatic template is alluring if Yim Ho is in charge of it. For half a movie he doesn't seem to believe in his own skill though. Riddled with voice over from Bo, a lot of the imagery is scored, stylized and way before we even get a grasp on the emotions surrounding characters (Bo and his wife to be played by Charlie Yeung for instance). It takes half a movie before Yim Ho settles down, turns down the volume before we can appreciate this clearly conveyed story. Bo's journey isn't particularly emotional or gripping but we're with it to a decent degree thanks to Aaron Kwok's performance (much of it in English) and his one on one scenes with his mother (Pau Hei-Ching) sprinkled throughout shows Yim Ho at his strongest. Injecting very loosely written characters like Annie Liu's temptress and the Kwok-Yeung marriage being very unexplored, at times the fragmented storytelling works. At other times we're meant to figure out too much and Yeong is a performer that gets the fragmented treatment to the point where she verges on being poor in the movie. It's swift at 100 minutes but it perhaps needed more.

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