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The Royal Scoundrel (1991) Directed by: Johnnie To & Chik Gei-Yee

Further signs of Cinema City's decline and dressing the buddy cop genre in Hong Kong colours doesn't make for an outstanding or even good time with The Royal Scoundrel. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ng Man Tat are paired up but that's where all the effort ends. They go into both sedated comedic banter (feelings of Johnnie To's subsequent Lucky Encounter crop up) and exaggerated exchanges but these are just guys punching in for a few days work where nothing is expected of them. They do comedy, romance, action while directors Johnnie To and Chik Gei-Yee try to convince themselves they have a passable product. This is the heyday of assembly line filmmaking though (not a forgivable thing but still...) and Johnnie To certainly turned his act around. Wu Chien-Lien delights every time she's on screen and is one actress that could just stand in front of camera and pass with flying colours. Waise Lee, Wong Yat-Fei and Wong Tin-Lam also appear.

The Rules Of The Game (1999) Directed by: Steve Cheng

3 years into the then current triad boom started by Young And Dangerous and The Rules Of The Game comes out with a bland poster, stars that may or may not shine, the highest rating and a plot that inspires no one. However director Steve Cheng clearly is aiming for distinctive familiarity and it helps actually. David Chow (Louis Koo) and friends run a garage but are struggling financially. Their conflict with triad boss Shing (Alex Fong) results in one of them, Chun (Sam Lee), crippled and brain damaged and circumstances force the group to join Shing's Hung Lok Group. David vows to only do it for Chun's sake and underneath the notion of revenge is brewing. It starts to draw the once tight group apart. Especially Ann (Kristy Yeung), who's the object of desire for Shing, feels more and more detached from the scheming David...

Within a trend, who craves effort? Then again having cinematographer Joe Chan make matters look pretty solid and because of the choice of shooting in synch sound, Steve Cheng at least makes us watch on for the above average professionalism on display. The darker turns the story takes engages and although some of the effects of the out of control spiral of violence gets taken down fully by some awful choices of music, The Rules Of The Game can indeed be argued to be familiar in a good way. Louis Koo and Alex Fong display the cool and emotional in solid ways but positive glimpses sporadically in a familiar production doesn't make for a full movie. Unexpected but not approved. Also with Edmond So, Ronald Wong, Simon Loui, Frankie Ng, Wayne Lai and Berg Ng.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Run (1994) Directed by: Derek Cheung

In this day and age where the remakes debate is at a fever pitch, it is easy to forget but somehow be less disturbed by the fact that Hong Kong cinema share quite a lot of blame in this area. They've however not been as open about it beforehand or even secured rights and with Run, you have a largely beat for beat remake of El Mariachi by Robert Rodriguez.

This does mean a change of scenery for the Hong Kong action film but one time director Derek Cheung does know it's for his local market despite. The casting of Leon Lai all means an excuse for him to promote his singing (that's the strongest feeling you'll get from his act) and as support, the "comedy" double team Eric Kot/Jan Lam are there to disrupt any mood established by director Cheung. That or rather those moods are achieved fairly well whenever Veronica Yip is on screen as she puts in dramatic acting just a few notches above the material, despite little chemistry with Leon Lai. It's never felt but the stock narrative beats aren't devoid of good instincts at points. Also at his disposal is action director Tony Leung who adds suitable style, excessive gunpower and gore to a few sequences. Co-starring Peter Chan Lung.

Triva time: Hong Kong's love affair with El Mariachi didn't stop with Run as Wilson Yip's Mongkok Story featured a clip within the movie showing Anthony Wong as a B-movie actor in a Hong Kong version of said flick.

Runaway Blues (1989) Directed by: David Lai

David Lai got rewarded the Category III rating for this triad action-drama and for very valid reasons. It may very well have been due to the triad activities featured but early on he delivers violence that just isn't suitable for even IIb.

Runaway Blues is the kind of effort where it's hard to really put any huge amount of care into story and characters as it's all been done in various forms before. Pace becomes an issue and a longing for gory violence to break it all up sets in. Blackie Ko is the action director at hand and sporadically before the final act puts together fine stunts and brutality with a capital B. Nothing is redeemed on director Lai's behalf when the unexpected finale goes the bloody places it does but it's working with Ko that he finally manages injects some welcome emotional content in the film. It makes Runaway Blues very memorable for its minutes of bloodshed but overall, this is kind of a drag. Andy Lau, Sunny Fang, Kelvin Wong, Tien Ni and Shirley Lui stars.

Run Don't Walk (1989) Directed by: Wong Chung

Not that I remember the Nick Nolte/Martin Short vehicle Three Fugitives very well but the same year Hong Kong used its template for their Run Don't Walk, doing re-takes of the main character plots and some of the gags. Director Wong Chung (Vampire's Breakfast and co-star of Cops And Robbers) does however get the casting absolutely right for this one, with the newly released gangster played by Ti Lung and the desperate robber by Richard Ng. Add into the mix an absolutely adorable little girl (Chan Cheuk-Yan - Wild Search) and the remake recipe does fly quite nicely on its own. It's mostly successful when displaying heart through its performers, making one forget there's merely snickers to be found otherwise and that comedic scenarios such as Richard Ng disguising as a nurse (blocking out his facial hair with a bouquet of flowers) isn't only far-fetched but uninspired. Kent Cheng plays one half of a pair of bumbling and also annoyingly unjust cops but Cheng provides some deadpan humour to make his supporting act stand out. Wong Chung also keeps a consistent tone mostly throughout, rarely choosing to go vicious on us as per the Hong Kong cinema recipe so the entire family can go and see ALMOST all scenes together. Also with Lam Chung.

Running Mate (1989) Directed by: Stanley Ko

Best not be late for this one as it starts extremely harsh with rape, courtroom drama and into the reformatory for girls for Irene Wan's character (sharing a cell with Rachel Lee amongst others). Cora Miao plays Fong, a social worker assigned to that group of girls that eventually escapes after a car crash during transfer. Working alongside the police (mainly Alex Man's Yung), Fong obviously dislikes the black and white view by the police of the escaped girls as they're not criminals as such but what's the verdict of her actual handling of the cases? She is also introverted while also being pushed by match-making friend played by Elaine Kam. Despite the odds being against it and especially during the dire circumstances, Fong takes a liking to the rough Yung...

Two movies and several moods existing with each other, director Stanley Ko can't seem to make them work together either. Bathing the proceedings in green, sloppily slapping on social commentary about the justice system, the opposite attract bit of Running Mate does charm at times thanks to leads Miao and Man being fairly well in-tune. Man's usual rough and growling act argues successfully that it can logically hold humanity and Miao's buttoned up, boyish appearance that gradually and extremely breaks out into womanhood is stuff Miao seems comfortable in performing. The resolution of both films does mean the halves of Running Mate finally works a little together as well. Wu Fung, Shing Fui-On and Kwan Hoi-San also appear.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

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