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King Of Chess (1992) Directed by: Yim Ho

Yim Ho (director of Kitchen) and Tony Leung Kar-Fai wrote the screenplay about two respective masters of chess and how they're treated by two different eras of Asian history. In flashback, we witness Wong (Leung), the king of chess, and a band of fellow citizens unwillingly caught up in the cultural revolution and having their desires and skills suppressed by the regime. In modern day Taiwan, a psychic young chess master being treated the opposite as his skills are exploited.

The connections between the different stories are there but not interest or involvement. Yim Ho gets most power and poignancy out of the flashback story and the sentiment about getting the government to recognize a skill not created through the revolution but held on to by the ordinary man. The modern day segment is more sketchy and frankly barely made to work in connection to the past story so it's half an interesting and well-shot film, half filler.

Yim Ho's original version was entirely set in the 60s but reportedly, the end result was not pleasing to producer Tsui Hark who thought Yim Ho was too soft on communism. Tsui stepped in as director and shot all of the modern day footage in Taiwan with John Shum for it to work as a parallel story. As much as I love Tsui, it doesn't really work and it would be interesting to see the full extent of Yim Ho's work instead (who still gets sole directing credit). Thanks to Mark for the above information.

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King Of Gambler (1990) Directed by: Johnnie Kong

Lau Siu-Ming opens the film with some nifty gambling skills, a trait that soon sets up one of the cooler character to come out of this genre in combination with the heroic bloodshed one. Namely Lam Wai (Long Arm Of The Law), who plays a number crunching invincible one who puts his particular skill to use in various creative, acrobatic ways. Too bad King Of Gambler can't shine a better light on this character emphasis and the film ends up playing out more like a stock genre picture, with the typical exaggerated gangster types all too visible (including the usually growling Alex Man). There is some slight positives to take away from the film though, especially the last 30 minutes or so that is an almost constant assault of gunplay. The biggest joy here comes from the extensive weaponry used and hordes upon hordes of robot-like henchmen up for slaughter (somewhat reminiscent of the various Agent Smith's of The Matrix movies). Lam Wai continues to shine in these scenes and the momentum sees director Johnnie Kong's (Madam City Hunter) minor quirky skills come to life. But with this comes the price of the quite extensive action being devoid of style and even good technical execution largely so what could've been an eventual classic merely ends up as being noticeable. Also with Kathy Chow, Jimmy Lung (in the villain role as always), Tommy Wong and a confused looking Roy Chiao.

King Of Kings (1969) Directed by: Joseph Kuo

A meatier and more dramatic side to Joseph Kuo's filmmaking side can be found via Fusian's unearthing of his 1969 swordplay drama. Compared to latter fan favourites such as 7 Grandmasters and Mystery Of Chess Boxing, King Of Kings is a welcome, different beast indeed. Sure it's basic story telling and partially crude filmmaking but in this case, even crude emotional impact is actual emotional impact. Witnessing their father being killed by the swordsman Thunder Sword after just having been appointed the escort for the emperor, young Siao Tung and Siao Chun are subsequently separated. We meet with the adult Siao Tung now known as Ku Chung (played by Peter Yang) and he's on a relentless, bloody quest to kill Thunder Sword in the name of revenge. He meets up with a blacksmith (Ma Kei) that sees the uncontrollable anger in the young man and wants to teach Ku Chung to stop spilling blood. The interesting dual nature to the young swordsman starts here. The portrayal of being driven by blood coupled with a twisting plot that you can spot a few miles off for sure is adequate and no staple presented (such as split items that are paired up for the finale of the film so that characters truly know who they are facing) is a letdown for the film. In fact, Kuo easily rises above them to deliver the surprising impact to Kings Of Kings where even the theatrical ending in terms of performances rings true to intended, valid intentions. With fight action on display making sense in the context of the story and also being quite fluid for 1969, Joseph Kuo's early gem is no longer destined for obscurity. Nor is his skill at providing substance.

King Of Robbery (1996) Directed by: Billy Chung

Ye Kuan (Simon Yam) is on the top of the most wanted list, thanks to his robbery- and AK-47 exploits. Together with his gang, they roam the streets of Hong Kong, leaving much blood and mayhem behind. The cops chase, lead by Bowie Lam and director Billy Chung churns out a a trashy dud. He does use the opportunities to be nasty as the robbers do pretty much annihilate everything they see but the whole affair manages to creep over to the shoddy, embarrassing side Hong Kong cinema can often walk and when Chung also adds some truly bizarre editing techniques (having to do with repeating scenes but in different color grading), he doesn't crawl over to the fun side cheap cinema like this can. In fact, it's barely cinema and the expected story beats of doubt within the gang, a possible undercover among them and the role of a woman (Anita Lee) within all this doesn't... just doesn't. The sole "what the..."-moment that does register is the sight of Yam going "undercover" on the streets as the wanted man he is but in a buddhist monk robe. Also with Roy Cheung and Chin Kar-Lok.

King Of Stanley Market (1988) Directed by: Jamie Luk

Fu (Richard Ng) is a regarded clothes salesman in Stanley Market but when a rival (Sylvia Chang) tries to outshine his business, the new competition generates hatred. Hatred turns to friendship and friendship into love...

Jamie Luk (The Case Of The Cold Fish) injects a pleasant enough tone into this romance, getting simple but sincere chemistry from his leads. While Richard Ng is carrying his comedy persona at times (a highlight comes when he's relegated to being a referee in the soccer game between the markets but keeps playing it into his team's favour), he's allowed more to lean back on a character afraid of commitment. A childish sweetness Ng conveys quite well. The script later invents situations that does very much feel manufactured for the sake of closure though and King Of Stanley Market loses a bit of its pleasant touch eventually. Lowell Lo, Charlie Chin, Elaine Kam, Lydia Shum, Wu Fung, Sandra Ng and Derek Yee also appear.

The King Of The Kickboxers (1990) Directed by: Lucas Lowe

Another example of how well Hong Kong based company Seasonal played the market by producing approachable vehicles in English with a Hong Kong touch to the action, The King Of The Kickboxers is neither art nor does it reach the highs No Retreat No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers did but it's still a fun entry. Loren Avedon is a cocky cop sent to Thailand to bust s snuff film ring whose main villain Khan (Billy Blanks) killed his brother 10 years earlier. Avedon puts on a wisecrack-act that mostly embarrasses as he simply can't embody it but the continual energy is admirable and his latter scenes with Keith Cooke (whose kicking is amazing) as master and student are amusing as they also are very Hong Kong genre staple in nature. In fact acting is across the board comes locked and loaded without subtlety but if Seasonal's action director Tony Leung had not delivered it would've been up for way harsher criticism. Injecting the Hong Kong style quite well through the Western players and Chinese doubles, the flow is far from the stiffness often inherited in Western productions NOT going with a Hong Kong choreographer and it generates the best excitement in the cage match at the end with Avalon and Blanks (who makes an impact as Khan in what is quite a silly role).

Kiss And Kill (1967) Directed by: Ching Gong & Daai Go-Mei

The 60s was a decade for spy entertainment in the vein of James Bond, something Shaw Brothers gladly capitalized on. Not being ashamed of that fact and even featuring the James Bond score for this one, Paul Chang is the handsome and cool Liang Tianhong who comes back to Hong Kong to find the secret plans for a ray transmitter that could bring world turmoil if ending up in the wrong hands. It's never explained really what it does but Kiss And Kill relies well on a rather pleasant aura to this spy adventure. It's mildly silly escapism with Paul Chang (along with Wei Ping-Ao) even going undercover in drag at one point. While there is some bloodshed and violence in the underground lair complete with an acid bath of sorts (bodies explode when hitting the water), largely Kiss And Kill is designed to be breezy and is in and out of your life quickly without much impact. Not a truly great nor bad thing that. Also with Tina Chin Fei.

Knight Errant (1973) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

Lin Huo-Shan (Jimmy Wang Yu) is a taxi driver who gets into fights, willingly or not, to the point of ruining his family financially at a time where they want to save money to cure the blindness of Huo-Shan's sister. Creating strains between him and his father (Ngai So) therefore, fights will have to come to the forefront as three Japanese fighters (Yasuaki Kurata, Lung Fei and Shan Mao) arrive to claim revenge on Huo-Shan's father...

Modern day effort with Jimmy Wang Yu but nonetheless a versus Japan plot is constructed yet again, Knight Errant fits more into standard tactics that thankfully features Jimmy. More often than not the bashing on display doesn't dazzle but from the saw mill sequence and onwards where the revenge driven Japanese are revealed to be both rapists and inept killers, the fury of Wang Yu gets to shine... albeit only fairly well. Using the structure of this location well, veteran Taiwan director Ding Sin-Saai saves the best for last as Wang Yu goes head to head with badass kung-fu grandma played by Tse Gam-Guk (Queen Of Fist and credited on the English print of Knight Errant as Lady With An Iron Fist). Strong beyond belief, even getting run over by a car doesn't stop this woman! You tally up the elements and get a favourable grade out of the uneven Knight Errant easily therefore. Also known as Dragon Fist.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Knight Of Old Cathay (1968) Directed by: Li Su

A partly superb swordplay drama examining the feeble notions of revenge and how you ultimately may earn nothing from it, director Li Su offers up plenty of well-staged atmosphere, using among other things the weather elements to his advantage as a secretive mystery slowly is unveiled when Peter Yang Kwan's character goes on his path of revenge. Equally adapt at letting this atmosphere build within very slow passages of film, this is approaching King Hu levels of direction, especially evident in an outdoor fight scene where Yang is outnumbered along with his sword fighting wife. Problem is though that once everybody sits down to slowly talk, talk, talk AND talk, the narrative fizzles out to the point of pure incoherence. Simply put, we're lost and frustrated since director Li Su clearly has a classic firmly in his hands that slips away way too easily. The final emotional push is very good though and Peter Yang Kwan shows what an acting strength he is for this genre in development at the time (see him log some of his best work in Joseph Kuo's King Of Kings).

Korean Connection (1974, Lee Doo-Yong)

The standard, generic kung-fu movie template could come out of Korea as well but noise and brevity is its strengths. A simple yet often muddled narrative about a document and revenge acts as the catalyst for the fight action as expected and here's where Korea does alright for itself after having chosen a basher-style to the proceedings. The complexity of the choreography can feel a little unrefined (certainly applies to the camera work too) but lead Han Yong-Cheol puts on a decent kicking showcase. Combined with a loudness within the brawls and the short running time for its US release, Korean Connection is the definition of a disposable genre-effort that was molded into a suitably brief package in the West thankfully.

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