Tag Archives: Jacky Cheung

Cinema-Manic: Best of the Best (1992)

Best of the Best follows Dee (Jacky Cheung) a member of the SDU, Hong Kong’s version of SWAT, who engages in a personal vendetta when his new girl Heidi (Sammi Cheng) turns out to be the daughter of evil triad Ngan Kwan (Paul Chun). If this synopsis sounds like an interesting movie to you, sorry to say, but it’s a slough of a movie to get through. Before the title card of the movie comes up, it shows Dee enjoying a birthday as a kid with his brother, and father resulting in a tragic incident resulting in the death of his brother. The person responsible for accidentally killing his brother is Little Ball (Ng Man-tat), Dee’s own father, whom hit his own son in the head with a gas cylinder during a scuffle with a criminal. At first, I thought the story was going to take the route of being more of a drama with some action sequences sprinkle in. This sequence while rushed sets it up that way. It doesn’t happen as the film is neither about redemption, forgiveness, and moving forward. Instead, what’s the movie focuses on romance that feels undercooked despite the amount of time dedicated to it. On top of that, opportunities that could have taken more advantage of the premise to the romance eventful isn’t taken.

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I could also use drink after watching this movie.

So dumbfounded by this, imagine my surprise less than half an hour into the movie seeing meandering scene, after meandering scene to only realize it’s going to focus on the romance aspect of its story. Confusing since the movie takes a while before even introducing the love interest Heidi, yet feels compel to rush the growth of the relationship. It takes so long before the actual main story props it head in making previous events feel disjointed. Going from a rescue mission inside a mall to a date doesn’t make a good transition between directions. Granted, action logic dictates a damsel in distress might fall in love with the hero after saving her from four gun wielding masked goons, and pulling her out of a car seconds away from exploding. However, action movie logic doesn’t excuse the rushed romance, the lack of direction, tonal inconsistency, and especially boredom. Half the reason for my boredom results in the same the couple simply talking about daddy issues, and the other time talking about running away when both characters grown adults. They don’t have the same restrictions applied to them if they were teenagers meaning they have less obstacles in their way if they both choose to run away together.

A major reason for this feeling like a chore to me was the lack of involvement with the characters. For example, Dee works with SDU, and no point considers putting his father, or any other love ones under some sort protection from  Ngan Kwan once his men attack him more frequently. Pointlessly endangering people around him that shouldn’t be caught up in it just because he’s head over heels for Heidi. Then there’s also Heidi who also doesn’t go to police to ensure her lover safety. Heck, she could have threaten her father to that she would tell the police incriminating details about his dealings just to make sure he backs off. She doesn’t do this either. Aside from not getting help when available, there’s also the lone that Dee’s conflict with Little Ball remains underdeveloped for the whole film. Once the time skip occurs, there’s no expansion on the trouble relationship between Dee, and his father. There’s no step forward for Dee to finally forgive his father, and there’s no progression in forgiving himself for the incident that push his son away from him.

There’s also the untapped potential of exploring years of hatred Dee has against his father action as a abusive police officer. If explored, it would explain why Dee is dedicated as he is to being a good SDU officer. Bringing me to the gift his brother gave to him before he died. While the sentiment is nice to have its main character carry around a memento he cherish from his brother it’s no point used to further expand on anything. There’s a point in the film where Dee’s loses the gift his brother gave him while dealing with his drunk father on the streets. Instead of using as another hurdle that has to be overcome, or Dee finally letting go of the tragic event. What the film does is simply play some sad music, close up on Jacky Cheung being sad, and end. Scratching my head wondering what was the point of establishing Dee’s brother gift as something significant if the story itself doesn’t do any with it.

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Jacky! Don’t asleep on duty!

Characterization is fairly handle well. While the romance of Dee, and Heidi suffer because it’s chooses to rush instead of building it is their weakest point. As individual characters their some interesting ideas surrounding them. Sadly, that all they end up being, ideas that could have been. For instance, the film after the timeskip is somewhat lighthearted during it romantic scenes, but the film progresses it slowly get harsher. However, because of the opening sequence the harshness immediately goes into lighthearted, and back into harshness instead of just being a steady flow from one tone to another. Then finally, despite the 90 minute length of Best of the Best half of it simply feels like it meanders around. This could be due to several reasons; it’s nearly half an hour before the main storyline even gets established, information that be given out quickly take longer than needed, and around half of the plot points don’t go anywhere. Even when there was action on screen the feel even made those boring due to a lack of urgency stemming from characters disappearing, and appearing inconsistently in the story. One thing it is consistent at is failing to create anything remotely engaging.

Jacky Cheung plays SDU officer Dee, and his acting is above average. It isn’t good because simply feels like he directly reading from the script instead of being the character. There’s many moments where Jacky Cheung is meant to be saddened by certain events, but puts on a sad face, and calls it a day. However, the limited material him (along with the rest of the cast) is his biggest hurdle. In that sense, he what is required of him adequately enough. However, it is a rather poor showing of his acting abilities when he comes across no differently in his tearjerker scenes as he does in his romance scenes.

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Looks like someone else is drinking their troubles away as well.

Sammi Cheng plays Heidi it’s underwhelming. When she’s meant to be cheery she is cheery. When she has to be sad she is sad. In this movie at least, she’s not capable of doing much with her material coming off unconvincing whenever she is required to be serious. Her only decent moments of acting are when the film picks up a lighter tone. However, as soon as that disappears her delivery feels robotic. Paul Chun plays Ngan Kwan, and with the exception of one scene in the climax he’s even worse. Given the direction wanted to do something serious, Chun over acting is out place in the movie. He can’t make a one dimensional character any fun, or hateable since he simply just shouts all his lines, and hoping scary sounding music will help mask some of his stoic line delivery.

The best actor is Ng Man-tat, and that’s simply because he comes off as the most pathetic out of the cast. Man-tat character is constantly depressed whenever he talks to his son, and attempts to be happy when he’s not around. During his dramatic scenes, he pour everything he could into those scenes more than the writing actually did. Convincingly getting across he’s a tortured soul who still wants to be a good father, but doesn’t know the right path. It’s Ng Man-tat who is the one bright spot among the better than average acting. Sadly, that puts everything else beneath him.

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One of the film’s few rare moments of not being boring.

Final thing worth even bringing are the action scenes, and they are all poor. Director Herman Yau simply wanted to get them done as quickly as possible. Making what little action is has seem underwhelming because there’s no coordination in it. There’s also a lack of creativity in them; like a chase sequence that requires Jacky Cheung to run away from a dozen armed goons. A majority of the chase sequence simply has him running through alleys, throwing some objects to throw his pursuers off, entering a more confined place to get a lead, and just barely making it into a taxi to getaway. There’s other action sequences like these, but very few have of them have me as bored as Best of the Best. The climax suffers from a lack of proper staging as Jacky Cheung simply goes into a wide open public area, start shooting baddies, and enters a building to confront Paul Chun. This whole climatic sequence doesn’t have much happening in it. The one stunt that occurred in this scene involved a stuntman laying down in a incinerator of sorts for a couple of seconds before the camera cuts. It’s not spectacular in execution, but it’s something eventful that required effort to capture. This is one of those films where even the action won’t keep you awake.

Best of the Best aims to be more than your standard average action, but ends up being worse as a whole because of it. It’s a half baked drama with boring characters, a romance that overtakes the story forgetting it’s intention, and becoming a total mess of a movie by the end it. It’s a movie that doesn’t accomplish anything, nor rewards viewers with much for their investment in it.

Rating: 2/10

Cinema-Maniac: Will of Iron (1990) Review

Will of Iron is a PSA disguised as a feature length film attempting to tell the audience that drugs are bad, and don’t do them. Sharing the spotlight between four characters it aims to show in the simplest of ways the horrors that drugs can bring to their lives directly, and indirectly. A serious subject matter that should be handle with care none of which will be found here. You have Jacky Cheung playing the complex character of Jacky. A drug addict whose trying to call it quits, but just seems incapable of quitting it cold turkey. Then you have Michael played by Michael Wong. Doing all he can to clumsily play a drug dealer whenever he’s on screen. The material he’s given doesn’t provide much leniency, or clarity how tough, sympathetic, scummy, or funny he should be in a scene. One scene will have Michael being scummy in supplying Jacky the drugs, while seconds will be the concerning best friend. It doesn’t help that Michael Wong himself does a poor job in the role; he’s fine whenever he’s not acting as a drug dealer, but since half of the film has him doing that he lacks the toughness the role demands.

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Producer: “What do you say now Jacky? Agree to star in the movie?”

Jacky (the character) is given some background being told that he has tried beating his drug habit, but there’s no usage of that in any sort of theme. From my limited experience, having a drug addict constantly coming back to doing drugs has worked itself into a theme in other movies about drugs. It’s a ongoing cycle that drug addicts have difficulty in breaking, and typically this would be used in either its narrative to reflect that cycle, or have the drug consumption sequences reflect its character enjoyment of it. Here, you get neither of those approach. Breaking the norm by just having it as a plot point, and just bringing it up whenever the plot is at a standstill. Like Jacky job for instance is to draw pictures; however, manga/comic panels (you anime fans will notice the Dragon Ball manga in the background) can be seen in his household multiple times throughout the movie will confuse matter. Simply saying Jacky is a comic artist would have clear things up. However, Jacky claims people buy his pictures whether this means making an entire issue of drawings, or just a singular piece is unclear. It’s not important to the story, but given Jacky addiction revolves around him using cocaine to get inspiration for his artwork just getting the basics right is required.

There’s also the character of Maggie played by Maggie Cheung. Considering how incompetently written the movie is I can’t fault it for naming some of its characters after their actors since it would have forgotten that too. She’s the one good person among the group of friends who managed to make a good life for herself. Going out of her way to help her friends resolve their issues no matter how dangerous it gets. We’re talking about involving drug dealers who regularly appear in the movie violently reminding Jacky he owes them money. Now, Maggie character when not interacting with the drug dealers is a sensible character. This flawless character ain’t got much going for her, but her actions to help her friends never come off as far fetch, or out of the boundary of realism. When she does interact with the drug dealers, well, one-hundred thousand dollar debt increases to around half a million in one conversation, and have to earn that within a week all because Maggie had to open her mouth.

 

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Drug Dealer: “Get into the fridge! Revenge is a dish best serve cold!”

Finally, the character of Carol is played by Crystal Kwok. She suffers the most from bad writing being important in the beginning of the movie than turning into a plot point. Kwok character is so poorly written I laughed unironically at the characters discovery that Carol attempted to kill herself. Yep, you can tell by that how much I cared. The only character left to talk about is Sam played by Yiu-Wah Kwok. Sam is just simply evil, and money grubby. Everything he does is done without subtlety to paint the idea all drug dealers are this crazy, and ruthless. In a action movie sure I’ll accept such a character depending on the context, but in a PSA passing itself as a drama such a character is out of place.

The film doesn’t function a film first, and quickly fails because of it. Typically, you would think certain rules, or ideas about writing would be common among people who are paid to write stories for a living. In this film, it thinks it’s a good idea to have the lesson first, and then think about the movie aspect to them. So what you get are scenes, after scenes, and more scenes driving the same point home of drugs are bad. Given the territory, expect the usual giving into temptation, friends being torn apart by the person’s addiction, the addict falling back into their habits until they finally have the strength to overcome it on their own, and other such scenes.

The only scene in the movie that’s worth anything is a scene where Jacky has a nightmare consisting him making some silly expressions. It starts off with Jacky walking into a hallway, finding a small packet of cocaine, and than a bigger package, until eventually finding barrels full of cocaine in the hallway. Jacky gleefully envelopes his face into the cocaine overjoyed by the supply. Once the cocaine disappears, Jacky sees a the drug dealers in the hallway, and they go after him. After tripping, Jacky turns back to see it was all in his head, and then an avalanche of red plastic barrels fall into down a flight of stair, and into the hallway. This nightmare finally ends when Jack witnesses his girlfriend getting killed. This the only entertaining scene in the movie, and all for the wrong reasons.

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Now that’s the face of a drug addict.

Finally, the action climax which the film has one for some reason lacks urgency. To give you an idea of the setup, you have a character who swallowed drug pods, a pregnant woman, and two other friends avoiding getting killed by gangsters in a abandoned house. Despite the prospect one character can die unexpectedly of drug pods exploding inside of him, and a pregnant woman possibly having her baby killed still left me bored. As characters, the previous two acts did nothing much in creating compelling characters. Once it got the setup done in the opening credits that was about it for characterization. Everything that was to be heartfelt felt phoned in due the constant PSA of don’t do drugs prevented the story from flourishing naturally. A happy ending wouldn’t actually lessen the significant of the message, but this film thinks otherwise which is why it just ends. After the action climax is done, and the last person is killed the film just finally calls it quits. It ends without lingering the consequences, or ends bittersweetly with a message that not committing to quitting an addiction is just harmful.

Will of Iron is simply a tiresome PSA patronizing the viewer, and does even worse as a drama having no idea how to properly discuss its subject matter. Just about every aspect of the film doesn’t work in its favor from the clueless writing, bad acting, and hammering the same points over, and over again to the point the viewer might actually take up drugs just to feel like their time wasn’t completely wasted. It’s just a dreadful movie to sit through, and by the end of it I felt my life sucked out of me during my viewing experience. I was done with the movie before hitting the halfway mark, and maybe taking some cocaine, unlike watching this movie, will actually provide some level of engagement.

Rating: 1/10