Archive for May 5th, 2013

shanghai-express dragon dynasty dvd

AKA Shanghai Express

Cheng fang-tin is a man on the run. Narrowly escaping from a group of Russian soldiers and a bounty hunter, he reappears back in his hometown with a bevy of beautiful ladies set on revitalising the place thanks to his plan of buying every business there. His intention is to use the hotel as a front for his prostitution racket but he needs some customers for his women. With some wealthy people boarding a train nicknamed the Millionaire’s Express which is coming from Shanghai, Cheng concocts a daring plan to blow up the railway track so that the train stops at the station and the customers will spend their money in the town. Naturally this does not go down well with the town’s lawman/fire officer who finds out what he is thinking of doing as he remembers that Cheng was responsible for bringing misfortune on the whole town years before when he blew up a local dam.  However, this is only the beginning of a series of developments as a trio of Japanese warriors who have stolen a valuable map with the location of the Terracotta Army is using the train as a getaway to get back home to Japan with a group of Chinese people tracking their every movie plus a small gang of foreigners is planning a robbery as well.

From a below par martial arts comedy actioner (Operation Pink Squad) to a worthy movie that delivers on all counts – Millionaire’s Express is an epic that’s superbly directed by Sammo Hung with an all-star cast. It starts as it means to go on with plenty of fast fights, action and amusing slapstick set pieces. The western setting for the plot is ideal with Sammo and Yuen Biao taking the lead characters. The comedy aspect of the movie is very funny. I especially liked the scene in the hotel room which has Richard Ng visiting his mistress and being caught by his wife. He tells her a made-up story that he is in reality a 00 agent and his mistress is in fact a fellow agent aiding him in his mission. Who should pop up from under a bed, inside a cupboard and on top of it as he’s explaining his story are numerous men all saying they’re also 00 agents. They had sneaked into the room earlier to listen in on the Japanese trio through the wall who are staying in a room next door! It’s such a hilarious situation as it unfolds.

millionaires-express screenshot
The martial arts sequences are fantastic but I didn’t expect anything less with Sammo in charge. Naturally Yuen Biao and Sammo are at the centre of it all. Both have a short but hard-hitting encounter at the town’s empty railway station but for me the highlight was Yuen Biao’s tussle with Dick Wei. Coming close was Sammo’s scrap with Cynthia Rothrock which initially sees her on top before Sammo dons his best Bruce Lee impression and eventually manages to subdue her after a powerbomb. The final 20 minutes of the movie is a massive free for all fight between various characters. It’s amazing to see Yuen Biao in one scene flip from the top of a burning tall building down to the ground and carry on walking immediately afterwards in one continuous take just to let the viewer know that it really was him doing the stunt. All this without the aid of wires! What a guy!!

The cast reads like a veritable who’s who of Hong Kong comedy/action stars from the mid 80’s such as the beautiful Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang, Hwang Jang-Lee, Cynthia Rothrock and a young Yukari Oshima giving a good account of herself in her first ever HK role by slicing and dicing people with her trusty sword during the frantic finale. I found myself trying to identify everybody in the movie. Jackie Chan must have been busy doing his own stuff as he doesn’t even have a cameo in this movie. It would have been nice to see him appear if only for a small amount of onscreen time.

Millionaire’s Express is as close to perfection in a madcap martial arts comedy movie. The lightning pace of the plot means there’s never a dull moment. HK movie fans will lap this movie up and the combined action/comedy element compliment each other nicely. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Operation Pink Squad DVD

Four unruly young policewomen known as the ‘Pink Squad’ are transferred to a new unit. The sexist policemen sees the quartet as a bunch of mouthy troublemakers due to the fact that they are constantly squabbling with each other and conspire to do what they can to create trouble for the squad in order to get rid of them from the force. The women are assigned to a case involving a blind musician whose former girlfriend who has escaped from prison was involved in a diamond robbery. The cops are sure she will pay the blind man a visit in order to recover the diamonds so they plan a stakeout at his property. One of the policewomen starts a friendship with the man which develops into a romance of sorts thus making the situation a bit more complicated. Sure enough the ex-girlfriend appears on the scene and proves just how violent she can be. With tensions boiling over between the quartet, can they solve their differences and crack the case?

What a major disappointment this action comedy turned out to be. It’s similar to The Inspector Wears Skirts but the only difference is whilst that movie had quite a balanced content of action and comedy this movie is vastly inferior to it. It has a hard time trying to decide on what it wants to be – a comedy or a drama. I found it to be a little bit too goofy and slapstick at times and the action was rather limited to 3 scenes – 2 of the fights end all too quickly (the first fight involving Jeff Falcon in a men’s toilet area had the potential to be great) and the longer fight set in a playground where one of the women is in disguise taking on a couple of thugs is easily the highlight of the movie. It is choreographed extremely well. It’s a shame that there wasn’t any other action scenes but that could be because the director of this movie Jeff Lau had a reputation for being lazy and basically let the cast and other personnel tell him how his movies should pan out. It doesn’t help that the plot is rather uneven and full of holes. Another mistake is not building up to a exciting conclusion. The fight in the playground comes in around the hour mark so the last 30 mins of the movie has nothing of any significance to keep viewers interested plus it ends on a bleak note. The DVD cover doesn’t even relate to anything seen in the movie.

The lead female actress in this movie is Sandra Ng who provides most of the comedy. I’m not saying that all of the comedy falls flat on its face, there are one or two amusing moments especially during the opening parts of the movie but the majority of the comedy I found to be rather lame. Then again this happened in a lot of HK action comedies at the time – a bit hit and miss. The martial arts sequences are performed by Ann Bridgewater who wasn’t given enough time really to showcase her talents properly. She looks impressive enough in the fight scenes that she has. The other 2 females rounding up the main cast (Elsie Chan and Suki Kwan) are only given limited time onscreen compared to the other two.

Apart from the 3 fight scenes, this movie is extremely dull and unfunny. I found my interest waning quite a number of times during the 90 min running time. It’s a fairly average movie and no different from any other generic action comedies that were churned out in abundance in Hong Kong during the 80’s. Is it worth your time? I wouldn’t say it is. On saying that I will check out the sequel in the hope that it’s better than this one.

No trailer but here’s arguably the best part of the movie:

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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