Hong Kong Action Cinema: D-G

By David Eber

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils

Director Andy Chin
Cast Brigitte Lin, Cheung Man, Gong Li, Frankie Lam
Year 1994
A.K.A. Semi-Gods and Semi-Devils, The Maidens of Heavenly Mountain, The Immortals, 8 Guardians of Buddhism, Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens, Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountain

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils begins with a flurry of exposition: Siu Yiu Tze, the head of the Tin San sect (which happens to be the greatest martial arts clan in the world, thanks to their powers of rejuvenation), has three junior students: Mo Han Wan, and twin sisters Li Chou-Shui and Li Chung-Hoi. The two sisters are both in love with Tze, but Mo Han Wan loves Chung-Hoi. To avoid an ugly situation, Tze has taken Chung-Hoi to live with him in seclusion at Piu Miu Peak. Naturally, the ugly situation follows, and the film begins with Mo Han Wan and Chou-Shi fighting a sorcerous duel outside the mountain. Meanwhile, Tze has been poisoned by Ting Chun Chou, the white-bearded, scenery-chewing, manaically-laughing head of the rival Sing Suk sect, which (unsurprisingly) is aiming for the number one spot, primarily by subduing and killing every one else. Tze knows his days are numbered, so he sends Chung-Hoi to find the bearer of the second half of a jade amulet. This person, who will be the heir to Tze's power, happens to be a timid young monk named Hui-Chok, who also happens to be assigned to guard the secret sutra of the Shaolin. Of course, Ting Chun Chou wants it too, so he sends his henchwoman Purple (yes, that's her name), to get it first. However, not only does she have her own designs, but she starts to feel for Hui-Chok, even as she's trying to wring the secret of the sutra out of him. Confused yet? After all the plots, betrayals, warring sects, secret stances, and dizzying sorcerous kung-fu duels, you will be.

Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils is, in some ways, the archetypical Hong Kong wuxia film: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It has all of the stock elements: misty, barren, blue-lit landscapes, lots of flying people, lots of flashy special effects, and the requisite tale of warring martial arts clans and larger than life heroes and villains. Unfortunately, it also has the stock elements of an incomprehensible story, muddled plot, and a bunch of characters no one really cares about. The action scenes are mildly entertaining, but we've seen everything here before, and seen it done better too. While you probably won't hate this film, by the time you're done watching it, you'll probably feel your time would have been better spent with another movie.

Feng Shui notes

If you like your Feng Shui games over the top, then this film is worth a look. It's literally overflowing with mystical stances, sutras, and magic items. Most everyone flies, magic abounds, supernatural powers are picked up at the drop of a hat, and fights break out just as easily (and for just as much cause). It should be noted that sorcery and kung-fu are essentially the same thing in this movie (not an uncommon thing in wuxia films). In other words, the most powerful martial artists can fly, throw energy bolts, teleport, and melt their opponents. Effectively, they're sorcerers with kung fu skills, and you could run them as sorcerors in a Feng Shui game, but they aren't quite the same thing.

Dr. Wai in “The Scripture With No Words

Director Ching Siu Tung
Cast Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Charlie Young, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Ngai Sing, Law Kar Ying, Billy Chau, Johnny Kong
Year 1996
A.K.A. Dr. Wai and the Scripture Without Words

Jet Li plays Chow Si Kit, a successful pulp author of 93 separate stories about the “King of Adventurers.” However, his wife Monica (Rosamund Kwan) is ready to divorce him, and the anxiety has brought on a case of writers block. As the story unfolds, the different characters in the film take turns working on Chow's unfinished adventure, each putting their own spin on it. As they do, the story comes to life on the screen, with each of the “real” characters taking on fictional roles. In the story, set early in the 20th century, the Indiana-Jones-slash-Wisely-esque King of Adventurers (played by Li, of course) sets out to recover the scripture without words, a legendary artifact that bestows upon its owner the power to see the future. His opposition includes the Japanese military, a band of marauders led by the nefarious Hung Sing, and the femme fatale Cammy (Kwan), who is by turns nasty and sympathetic, depending on who's doing the writing. Naturally, the “fictional” and “real” stories parallel each other, with events in one reflected in the other, and the resolution of both merging together in the end.

Dr. Wai is a film which takes an interesting approach to the action genre, but unfortunately it doesn't quite pan out. The production values are high, the sets and costumes superb, the story interesting, and the special effects quite good in some places. However, what the movie lacks is a spark. There's none of the wanton exuberance in this film that you'll find in some of Li's earlier works like The Tai Chi Master or Fong Sai Yuk,and Li's performance seems unspirited. Ultimately, the film never really becomes engaging, and you never feel drawn to the edge of your seat.

Feng Shui notes

If you're interested in going a bit off the beaten path with your game, Dr. Wai is a good source for running a “pulp” Feng Shui adventure. The movie may be lacking overall, but it does get the look and feel of the genre quite nicely, and it captures the spirit fairly well too.

Dragon Inn

Director Raymond Lee
Cast Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung (Ka-Fai), Donnie Yen, Lau Shun, Lawrence Ng
Year 1992
A.K.A. New Draon Inn

During the reign of the Ming Dynasty the evil eunuch Tsao (Donnie Yen), head of the East Chamber, is slowly usurping power by having his rivals eliminated. He sends out his elite Black Arrow troop to hunt down Chow Wai-On (Tony Leung), a potential threat to his power. They pursue him to the Dragon Inn, a desolate stopover for bandits. The inn's owner, Jade (Maggie Cheung), makes a little extra on the side by luring lowlife customers up to her room, dispatching them, and rifling the bodies, which are themselves sent down to the butcher to make the inn's specialty: spicy meat buns. Chow meets up at the inn with his lover, the swordswoman Yao Mo-Yin (Brigitte Lin) and a band of rebels, followed closely by Tsao's henchmen. The catch is, the bad guys don't know what their quarry looks like. With both groups confined to the inn overnight by a storm, a tense game of maneuver and deception ensues.

This remake of 1967's “Dragon Inn” features Tsui Hark as the producer in one of his better films. Good production values and action sequences combine with a great story and excellent performances to make this a winner. This film is strongly plot-driven and, wire-fu nonwithstanding, one of Hark's more realistic films. The tension in this film is palpable; it feels clausterphobic despite being shot in the middle of an empty desert. The performers pull it off well, with Maggie Cheung in one of her best roles to date. When the action kicks in, it's fast, furious, and graphic.

Feng Shui notes

Though we're told the story takes place in the Ming Dynasty, this is definitely an A.D. 69 film. This film provides a background for how the Lotus have wormed their way into power. The nasty killer arrows are a neat trick for the bad guys. However, it's the inn itself that really stands out. The Dragon Inn is “the” quintessential RPG inn, the kind of place filled with unsavory characters that attracts more trouble than mooks do bullets in a John Woo film. This movie practically begs to be made into a Feng Shui adventure.

Drunken Master

Director Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast Jackie Chan (Sing Lung), Huang Cheng Li, Yuen Siu-Tien, Hsu Hsia, Lin Ying, Dean Shek Tin, Yuen Sun-Yi
Year 1978

Drunken Master stars Jackie Chan as a young version of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hong. Here the legendary figure is portrayed as brash, cocky, and constantly getting into trouble. This earns him the ire of his father, Wong Chi-Huang (i.e. Wong Kei-Ying), who sends him off to be trained by Su Hua-Chi (a.k.a. Sam the Seed), an alcoholic old beggar who is actually a master of the 8 drunken styles. Fei Hong flees when the sadistic training regimen proves to be to tough for him to bear. However, he runs into a mercenary killer named Yam who beats and humiliates him. Chastened, Fei Hong returns to his master and learns the secrets of drunken kung fu for his inevitable future showdown with his nemesis.

This film is an oddity among those reviewed here because of it's age. However, that fact that is a prequel to the amazing Drunken Master II makes it worthy of inclusion. In fact, this movie has very little to do with its sequel, other than that Chan plays the same role in both. Nonetheless, it's an interesting look into his development. Filmed at a time when Chan was breaking away from the pack, you can see the seeds of both the action and the comedy style that would later become his trademark. It still looks like a chopsocky flick, which I don't really care for, and there really isn't much of a story to speak of. However, even in this early stage Chan really shines, and you can see in his performance the promise of things to come. Readily and cheaply available in the U.S., Drunken Master is well worth picking up even if you don't like the kung-fu flicks of the past.

Drunken Master II

Director Lau Kar Leung
Cast Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Ti Lung, Gabriel Wong, Andy Lau, Ken Lo, Chin Kar-Lok, Bill Tung, Felix Wong
Year 1994

This 1994 sequel to Drunken Master returns Jackie Chan to the role of a young Wong Fei Hong 16 years after his original performance. The film begins when Wong accidentally mixes up a box containing ginseng root for his father's medical practice with a similar box containing the imperial seal of China. The villains in this case are foreign imperialists who are smuggling Chinese treasures out of the country through their steel mill with the help of corrupt Chinese collaborators. But not only are they theives, they're also heartless slavedrivers, forcing the native Chinese workers at the mill to work extra hours without pay under the threat of violence. Naturally, Wong Fei Hong gets thrust into this mess. Fortunately, he has a secret weapon. Fei Hong is a practitioner of Drunken Boxing, and when he gets tanked he becomes an invincible kung-fu fighting machine. Unfortunately, his father (Ti Lung) has forbidden him to drink, and when Wong accidentally assaults him in a drunken stupor, he is cast out of his home.

For those of you who want to see pure Jackie Chan martial arts at its finest, Drunken Master II will leave you satisfied. Set in 19th century China, there are no car chases and the like that are so common to Chan's films. What you get instead is Jackie Chan performing some of the most incredible non-wire kung-fu you'll ever see. His drunken style kung-fu showcases some of the most graceful, fluid, and breathtaking moves of his career, and he manages to make it all look effortless. Of course, you've got the usual Chan-style comedy and nail-biting stunts, including a scene where Chan crab-stumbles backwards over a bed of hot coals. A good story and strong performances by the actors round this film out, and make it one of the best Jackie Chan films ever.

Feng Shui notes

It goes without saying that this film (and it's prequel, Drunken Master) was largely responsible for the Path of the Empty Bottle, and that anyone who plans to play a character with these schticks should watch this film first. You will see Jackie use the potential of the Drunken Stance to its fullest, pulling off a dizzying array of maneuvers and stunts, including one scene in which he spits flaming industrial alcohol. There's also a scene in the film in which Fei Hong and another character take on somewhere between one hundred and two hundred mooks at once. Players should take a look at it for instruction on how to use your enviornment to take on vastly superior numbers (as well as to see just how mooks stack up to named characters).

Eastern Condors

Director Sammo Hung
Cast Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching Ying, Joyce Godenzi, Dr. Haing S. Ngor, Dick Wei, Billy Lau, Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Woo-ping
Year 1987

Set in 1976, Eastern Condors tells the tale of commando team sent to Vietnam to destroy a secret store of missles left behind by the departing American forces. Led by Lt. Col. Lam (Lam Ching Ying), the force is a seedy bunch of Chinese and Vietmanese criminals picked from an American prison and promised their freedom if they complete the mission. Airdroping over Vietnam in the dead of night, the team rendevous with three female Cambodian guerillas (led by Joyce Godenzi) and the mission gets underway. Naturally, things don't go smoothly as personalities clash and the commandos are killed off one by one. The first stop is a local village, where the team hooks up with with Rat Chieh (Yuen Biao), a chopper-riding contraband dealer, and his doddering, feeble-minded uncle (Yeung Lung), who is also the brother of Lt. Col. Lam's superior. The commandos tangle repeatedly with the Vietnamese, and are pursued by an effete, spectacle-wearing general (Yuen Wah), who is prone to hiccuping, fanning himself, and laughing like a demented loon. The team finally reaches the base with the VC hot on their heels, and after much sound and fury our hero, Tung ming-sun (Sammo Hung) faces off against the general, who turns out to be a kung-fu dynamo.

Eastern Condors is the Dirty Dozen by way of Hong Kong, with a liberal sprinkling of the Deer Hunter thrown in as well. The movie features serviceable, if unremarkable battle scenes; one of the heroes grabs a machinegun, and then we cut to a scene of dozens of soldiers falling backwards as bullets riddle their bodies or grenade blasts fling them skyward. There are also the requisite scenes of wounded commandos giving their gutsy-yet-tender last words to their grieving-yet-determined comrades in arms, plus the required character clashes, frayed tempers, and a “what is this mission all about scene.” Of course, what were really here for is to see Sammo and Co. kick butt with kung fu, and in this they do not disappoint, though for the real meat, you have to wait for the final confrontation between Sammo and Yuen Wah. Overall, it's an entertaining film, just not a particularly original one.

Feng Shui notes

Players who gravitate toward the Ex-Special Forces archetype should find much to enjoy in this film, and it's a good showcase for running games outside the Shaolin Masters/Triad Gunmen/Flying Sorcerers mold. The mooks are also handled in true Feng Shui style — they fire off a lot of ordinance without hitting anyone (until it's dramatically appropriate), and as soon as anyone starts shooting back they go down by the bucketload.

Encounters of the Spooky Kind II

Director Sammo Hung
Cast Sammo Hung, Lam Ching Ying, Mang Hoi, Wu Ma
Year 1990
A.K.A. Close Encouters of the Spooky Kind 2

Encounters of the Spooky Kind II stars Sammo Hung as a lovestruck but impovershed student of a Taoist sifu (Lam Ching Ying). He wants to marry his betrothed, the innkeeper's daughter Little Chu, but her father prefers the odious but wealthy Sze. Sze goads Sammo into a fight, then has his hired sorcerer cast a spell on him so that he mimics the moves of a trained monkey. He begins thrashing our hero, until his fellow student (Mang Hoi) figures out the trick and sics a dog on the simian. Things don't end there though. Sammo befriends a ghost, who attempts to help him out against Sze. However, the plan backfires, and Sammo has to keep his sifu from zapping the ghost with a sorcerous yo-yo. Meanwhile, Sze calls upon his sorcerer for some dirty tricks, and what results are a series of duels, both physical and magical, involving walking corpses, cockroach swarms, leeches, mummies, and all kinds of good stuff.

Encounters of the Spooky Kind II combines horror, comedy, action, and fantasy together into a movie that is just plain fun to watch. The plot moves along at a pace that keeps the action coming without being overwhelming. Sure, a lot of the special effects are cheesy, but the action scenes are great and the whole film is highly imaginative. Top it all off with an excelent performance by Sammo Hung, and you've a got a movie well worth checking out.

Feng Shui notes

This movie has everything you need to stock your A.D. 69 campaign: hopping vampires, ghosts, sorcery, corpses, black magic, mummies, an evil sorcerer, and a pair of slithery warriors with an affinity for serpents that I'm guessing were the inspiration for Feng Shui's snake men. If you like your games to be heavy on fantasy and light in general, this film is a good choice to start with.

Fantasy Mission Force

Director Chu Yin-Ping
Cast Jackie Chan, Jimmy Wang Yu, Chang Ling, Brigitte Lin, Adam Cheng
Year 1979

Fantasy Mission Force has to be one of the most bizarre, wacked-out HK films ever made, an exercise in excess that will blow your mind with it's sheer absurdity. Simply put, it's WWII, and the allied generals (including Abraham Lincoln) have been captured by the Japanese, who have invaded Canada. Jimmy Wang Yu is given the task of organizing an elite commando team to get the generals back, because “If the troops found out, it would be bad for morale.” He responds by putting together a weirdly-dressed assortment of motley characters, including the bazooka-toting Brigitte Lin. In the course of the mission they meet up with hooded, leopard-skin-wearing amazons and a haunted house full of ghosts, hopping corpses, and evil wizards. The final showdown is in a junkyard with a horde of nazis in road-warrior type get-ups riding atop muscle cars like they were chariots.

Words truly cannot do Fantasy Mission Force justice. Imagine taking the stock elements out of every HK movie along with all the leftover costumes and props and puttting them into one film, and you'll begin to get an idea of what this film is like. Everything in this movie seems as if it was deliberately chosen to be as innappropriate as possible. Don't even bother with the story or the plot. This film is something that is simply meant to be experienced, not understood. It isn't exactly a good film, but it is one you've got to see to believe.

One note: Jackie Chan plays a relatively small role in this film, but his presence is greatly played up on the packaging. This is not a Jackie Chan movie, and you may be disappointed if you watch it under that impression. On the other hand, you can find this film pretty cheaply if you look around a little.

Feng Shui notes

Oddly enough, this film actually can serve as some inspiration for Feng Shui players. Specifically, the assortment of outlandish characters in this film are somewhat reminiscent of the Netherworld rabble. As it says on p. 229 of the rules, “Exiles can be identified by their distinctive mish-mash of clothing styles. They look like they've picked up their wardrobes at thrift stores stocked with the refuse from the entire history of fashion.” No truer words could be spoken about the characters in this movie. Now if only the whole thing had been filmed underground…

First Mission

Dir Sammo Hung
Cast Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Emily Chu, Dick Wei, Mang Hoi, Melvin Wong, James Tien, Tai Bo, Chin Kar-Lok, Yuen Wah, Wu Ma, Yip Wing-Cho
Year 1985
A.K.A. Heart of (the) Dragon

Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung team up in First Mission, a film that puts both of them in unusual roles. Jackie plays Tad, a policeman who has to care for his retarded brother Danny (Hung). The majority of the first half of the movie involves the relationship between the two. Tad is torn between the need to protect his brother and the resentment he feels at having to put aside his dreams of sailing the world to take care of him. The action picks up later in the film, when Danny accidentally becomes involved in a jewel heist. In the end, Tad and his friends on the force are forced to confront the bad guys at a construction site for a showdown which features one of the grittiest, if not the flashiest, Jackie Chan fight scenes on film.

First Mission is not what you would expect from a Jackie Chan film. The usual goofy humor and clownish antics are gone. Instead of playing a likeable buffoon, Chan plays a colder and more hard-edged character. Hung, too, deviates from his usual kung-fu fighting roles to play a character who would be funny if he wasn't so sad. Despite the fine performances, this film may prove to be disapointing to fans expecting the usual thrills and spills of a Jackie Chan movie. Other than the introductory scene, this film takes a long time to get to the action, so much so that the second half of the film feels like a separate story altogether. What's more, the voice-dubbing and awful background music of the Blockbuster version (entitled “Heart of Dragon”) are extremely grating. If you choose to see this film, look for a subtitled version, especially if you can find the original Hong Kong version, which features two fight scenes cut from the international print. Overall, bear in mind that you're going to be watching a drama with action, and not a typical Chan-style kung-fu comedy.

Feng Shui notes

You might recall that “Baptism of Fire,” the introductory adventure in the Feng Shui rulebook, has a scene in which the players fight with the Poison Thorns at a construction site. If nothing else, the climactic battle in this film is worth watching as an example of how to do that scene the right way.

Fist of Legend

Director Gordon Chan
Cast Jet Li, Chin Siu-ho, Ada Choi, Nakayama Shinobu, Yasuaki Kurata, Billy Chow, Paul Chun
Year 1994

This remake of Fist of Fury stars Jet Li in Bruce Lee's role as Chen Zhen, a Chinese martial artist studying in Japan during the Manchurian Occupation. When Zhen learns of his master's death at the hands of a Japanese master during a match, he returns home and discovers that his master was poisoned. The deed was masterminded by Fujita Gou, a Japanese general determined to break the Chinese spirit. When the Japanese master turns up dead, Zhen is the obvious suspect, and only the timely arrival of his Japanese girlfriend, Mitsuko, clears his name. However, her appearance also alienates the members of his school, who refuse to accept a Japanese woman, while the Japanese turn their back on Mitsuko for her involvement with Zhen. The two go into exile, but are unable to disentangle themselves from the rising tensions between the Chinese and Japanese, until finally Zhen must confront the General in a final, one-on-one showdown to the end.

Many people consider Fist of Legend to be Jet Li's finest work, and with good reason. Unlike many of his other films, Fist of Legend is a subtle and restrained film, in which spectacular kung-fu battles are coupled with real story and character development. The Japanese are portrayed as real people in the film, and not just cardboard villains. Li himself gives a subtle and excellent performance, and this is one of his few films in which the martial arts are not enhanced by wires. Action fans will not be disappointed, as this film features some of Li's best fight scenes ever. All in all, this is a top-notch film, and one which should not be missed.

Feng Shui notes

Fong Sai Yuk

Director Corey Yuen
Cast Jet Li, Josephine Siao, Michelle Reis, Sibelle Hu, Chan Chung Yung, Chin Man Cheuk (Zhao Wen-Zhao), Paul Chu, Adam Cheng
Year 1993

After the success of the OUATIC series, Jet Li returned to the screen to play Fong Sai Yuk, another Chinese folk hero. However, Fong Sai Yuk and Wong Fei Hong are completely different characters. Unlike the wise and stoic Wong Fei Hong, Fong Sai Yuk is a young, goofy, playful, momma's boy who also happens to be a martial arts master. When former bandit Tiger Lu (Chan Chung Yung) goes straight, he decides to win over the people by hosting a kung-fu competition with his daughter Ting Ting (Michelle Reis) as the prize. The rules are simple: whoever can knock his wife Siu Lee Wan (Sibelle Hu) off a wooden tower wins. Sai Yuk enters the competition, and the fight extends to the heads of the audience! However, when he gets a glimpse of Ting Ting's homely maid impersonating her, he throws the competition. This forces his mom (Josephine Siao) to masquerade as Sai Yuk's older brother and enter the competition to restore the family name. She defeats Lee Wan, who then falls in love with her, while Tiger Lu demands she marry Ting Ting. As if this wasn't enough, the emperor's agent is in town looking for members of the revolutionary Red Flower Society, a group of which Sai Yuk's dad is a member.

Fong Sai Yuk is an light-hearted adventure that mixes humor and martial arts and turns out an enjoyable film. Fans familiar with the usually stoic Li will be thrown off by his completely opposite characterization in this picture. However, it's Josephine Siao who really steals the show as Sai Yuk's hillarious martial arts mom. About two-thirds into the film the mood suddenly shifts from comedic to melodramatic, which may be disconcerting to some viewers. Nonetheless, Fong Sai Yuk is a fun and exciting film with excellent performances. One of Jet Li's better films.

Feng Shui notes

If you're looking to run a more light-hearted adventure with lots of action, this film is a good place to start. Jet Li really shines in a number of extended fighting sequences, including a battle on a wooden tower, a pole fight on the waterfront, and a battle beneath a wooden platform. One scene has him firing roughly a dozen arrows from a bow and hitting a mook with each one all at once. This could be played out as a stunt with a very high penalty, or as a variation of Carnival of Carnage with a bow. Incidentaly, fans of the Xena TV series may notice a distinct similarity between the first episode of that show and the classic “head-top” fight scene in this film.

Fong Sai Yuk II

Dir Corey Yuen
Cast Jet Li, Josephine Siao, Michelle Reis, Corey Yuen, Adam Cheng, Amy Kwok
Year 1993

Jet Li returns again as Fong Sai Yuk in this sequel to the first film of the same name. This time, Sai Yuk is a full member of the Red Flower society. However, he's having trouble accepting their strict rules (“The Ten Commandments”), and he's made an enemy of Mr. Ma, the cruel son of the former leader. Sai Yuk tries to prove himself by volunteering for a mission to intercept a group of Japanese Samurai who are carrying a box with secret information vital to the cheif of the Red Flower society (Adam Cheng). He fails the mission, but wins the heart of the governor's daughter. When Mr. Ma mocks him, Sai Yuk rashly promises to woo the daughter and regain the box. However, he's already married to Ting Ting (Michelle Reis), and if he can't do it in three days he has to allow himself to be crippled for life. This eventually leads to a showdown with the villanous Mr. Ma atop a rickety mountain of furniture, with the life of Sai Yuk's fiesty mom (Josephine Siao) hanging in the balance.

This sequel more or less lives up to the original for action, excitement, and creative stuntwork. The tone is a bit darker than the last film, though there are still plenty of laughs. The ideas are also a bit less fresh. One of the comedic highlights of the film, a battle on top of a high pavillion, is somewhat reminiscent of the tower fight in the first film. The story is different, but the film still unfolds much like the first one. Nonetheless, this should not stop anyone from seeing this film, even if they haven't seen the first one. Once again Jet Li turns in a fine performace in a thoroughly enjoyable film filled with creative action scenes.

Feng Shui notes

Like its predecessor, this film is full of great action stunts for Feng Shui players to emulate. Of particular note is the final battle where Sai Yuk must fight across a percariously balanced pile of wooden furniture, not only keeping himself balanced but also keeping his mom's footing stable. As the villain kicks out various supports, Sai Yuk must hastily replace them. This is not actually as hard as it seems for Feng Shui characters. Fighting on the pile would incur a basic −2 stunt penalty. Kicking the furniture around so that it balances precisely is a bit more difficult, requiring Martial Arts task checks ranging in difficulty from 15 to 20. Besides the action, this film is also an excellent source for the Guiding Hand. In particular, some of the opening scenes demonstrate their rigid mentality, and illustrate why they are not heroes like the Dragons.

Full Contact

Director Ringo Lam
Cast Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong, Ann Bridgewater (Park On-Ney), Bonnie Fu, Lee Kin-Sang, Frankie Chin
Year 1992

Full Contact opens with the villains; Flamboyantly gay amateur magician and pyschopathic criminal Judge (Simon Yam) leads a bloody robbery of an antique shop in Thailand with psycho-slut Virgin (Bonnie Fu) and Road Warrior reject Deano (Frankie Chin). Cut next to Mona (Ann Bridgewater) stripping in a seedy nightclub while power-rock blares. Mona's husband Jeff, a fellow club employee, is called on to rescue his buddy Sam (Anthony Wong) from a local loanshark to whom Sam owes money. This act makes them both marked men, so Sam proposes a joint heist with his cousin Judge so that they can make enough money to flee the country. However, the loanshark contacts Judge and arranges to have him double-cross Jeff. The heist goes down and Jeff is left for dead in a burning house, betrayed not only by Judge but by his buddy Sam as well. Jeff survives, however, and begins the process of recuperation that will eventually lead to an explosive revenge.

Full Contact is the heroic bloodshed genre done in electric, fog, and chrome with style to spare. Motorcycles kick up debris as they rip through neon-blue back alleys shrouded in mist to the beat of fuel-burning rock music. This movie blends the Hollywood look with HK style into a movie full of seething energy and raw attitude. Simon Yam plays his part with perfect balance, neither too restrained nor too outrageous, but he's still eclipsed by Chow Yun-Fat, who radiates so much cool and machismo he borders on self-parody. The film does tend to slow down a bit in the middle, but despite this it stands out as an excellent example of the kind of attitude, style, and energy that HK films have to offer.

Feng Shui notes

Once you've seen Hard Boiled and The Killer, check out this film for another look at how to do gunplay in your Feng Shui games. The bulletcam is particularly cool. Worth noting is the scene in which Jeff tosses a fire extinguisher at a bunch of mooks and then shoots it, turning it into an impromptu grenade. For your game, shooting a stationary fire extinguisher should be no harder than shooting a mook, i.e., set a target number (e.g. 6-8), and require the player to roll five or above that number (e.g. 11-13) to blow up the extinguisher. If successful, the outcome indicates the number of mooks taken out, assuming they're all in a close group. So if the target was a 7 and your player rolls a 16, four mooks are taken out of commission.

God of Gamblers

Director Wong Jing
Cast Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau, Joey Wong, Cheung Man, Shing Fui-On, Ng Man-Tat, Michiko Nishikawa, Charles Heung
Year 1989

Chow Yun-Fat plays Ko Chun, a super-suave gambler gifted with almost supernatural skill at all games of chance. In a now classic scene, Ko faces off against Michiko Nishikawa in a game of dice. She rolls a perfect low score — six ones. Ko responds with a roll of five ones — and one broken die, making him the winner (ironicaly, my copy was misdubbed so that the dealer declared that the victory went to the highest roll). After this victory, Ko is recruited by his opponent, a man named Wong, to help him depose his rival Chan in a high stakes game. However, before the game can occur Ko hits his head in a fall and loses his memory. He is taken in by a small time hood named Knife (Andy Lau) and his girlfriend Jane (Joey Wong), neither of whom know who he really is. They soon discover that although Ko has been reduced to the mentality of a child, he still retains his phenomenal gambling abilities. However, he won't gamble unless he's fed his favorite brand of chocolate. Word eventually leaks out about Ko's condition, and the pressure builds as his enemies move to have him eliminated. Will Ko regain his memory and face the villanous Chan in a gambling showdown? What do you think?

This HK take on Rain Man has become a classic amongst Hong Kong cinema buffs. Chow Yun-Fat has never been smoother than in this part, and his screen presence simply radiates cool. Take note though, despite a good scene in a parking garage this is not an action movie. Fortunately, the story and performances keep the interest going, although the scenes with Ko in his childlike mental state get tiresome after a while. It's the gambling scenes that are the highlight of this film, and in this regard they do not disappoint.

Note: There are several movies which use “god of gamblers” in their title. “God of Gamblers Return” and “God of Gambers 3 — The Early Stage” are the direct sequels to this film. “God of Gamblers II” and “God of Gamblers III — Back to Shanghai” are actually the sequels to “All for the Winner,” a spoof of the original God of Gamblers.

Feng Shui notes

So, you want to play a gambler in Feng Shui. Forget Kenny Rogers, this is the source to consult. Ko Chun is the epitome of the master gambler — always suave, always stylish, and always cool under pressure. James Bond eat your heart out!

Green Snake

Director Tsui Hark
Cast Joey Wong Cho-Yin, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Zhao Wen-Zhou (Chiu Man-Cheuk), Wu Xing-Guo (Ng Hing-Kwok)
Year 1993

Joey Wong and Maggie Cheung play sisters named “White” and “Green” who are actually snakes who have assumed human form. Green, the younger, has only been practicing 500 years, and thus reverts into serpentine form. White, the elder, has been practicing twice as long, and is much more serious about becoming a part of human society. She falls in love with a human scholar (Wu Xing-Guo), but has to keep her true nature from him. Her real problems, however, come in the form of a fanatical Taoist Monk (Zhao Wen-Zhou), who is incensed at the violation of the natural order presented by the two sisters. This results in a climactic sorcerous battle of epic proportions that may shock you in its resolution.

Directed and Produced by Tsui Hark, Green Snake bears the hallmarks of his cinematic style, though in this case the emphasis is less on action and more on the visuals of the film. This movie is imbued with lush, dreamlike, erotic imagery. This film is less restrained and more blatantly sensual than Hark's A Chinese Ghost Story. Unfortunately, what's going on in the plot occasionally gets lost in what's on the screen, and with fewer action scenes than usual the whole thing eventually becomes tiresome. It's still a good film, but it's lack of action and it's overindulgent cinematography keeps it from being great.

Feng Shui notes

Green Snake manages to incorporate several different Feng Shui elements all at once. The main characters are, clearly, transformed animals (though they are not the villains in this case), the setting is closest to A.D. 69, and the advesaries in this film have a very Guiding Hand-esque type of mentality. It's an interesting look at the way typical roles can be turned around, and of course it is the movie to see for a look at transformed animals.