Opera School colleagues Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah face off in this action/drama film, (oh, and Maggie Cheung tags along for good measure). This film has seems to have slipped off the radar somewhat, but if you manage to see it, you'll find it has some very powerful moments.
The scope of the film is huge. We start off in Imperial China (the Ming Dynasty), where we are introduced to the characters of Fong Sau-Ching (Biao), and Fung San (Wah) - perfect symbols of good and evil respectively. As in real life, the two are 'brothers', in that they have trained and lived together as Royal Guards. However, Fung has become corrupted, and is a known rapist and murderer. Fong must capture him within twenty days, or face execution himself.
Did I mention that they travel into the future Hong Kong, the year 1989? Well they do via a Buddhist Wheel - a kind of primitive Delorian (but built sturdier).
This film is by no means perfect, but it's main draw-cards are the exquisitely choreographed (though all too rare) action sequences, and the overall excellent production values. The performances vary somewhat, (Yuen Wah is maybe a little too comical in his delivery), but the film is ripe with powerful scenes and a surprising amount of subtext, if you're willing to look for it.
The most interesting contrast the film makes is between the past and the (then) present. We find that honour, loyalty, and friendship mean totally different things in the modern age, and Biao's character has the most difficulty adjusting to his surroundings. Wah's character however (rapist, thief, murderer) adjust very quickly, and has even managed to adopt the most cutting-edge in fashion. The subtle distinctions drawn between Hong Kong and the Mainland are also of interest - though how relevant they are today I cannot say.
Clarence Fok has undertaken a very ambitious task here - a film that deals with so much (in my mind) cannot succeed in every area. However, it does succeed in the most important areas for me, and I can only recommend at least one viewing. It does, however, seem to improve with multiple viewings. The rich visuals and and action sequences alone make this a stand-out from it's era.
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