Tag Archives: Maggie Cheung

Cinema-Maniac: First Shot (1993)

I always disagreed with the notion that there’s a set number of ways to write stories. However, there are times where it does feel like that is the case. Not just in movies, but in general media that I consume. It also doesn’t help in the little time I did spend in college taking classes on writing further expanded my knowledge on fictional writing. One thing I didn’t need to learn in my classes is that execution is key. No matter how many type of stories you write, or experience understanding how to make those elements work together can lead to making a good product. Hence, today’s movie while overly familiar for viewers who’ve seen The Untouchables execute the same general story into a decent film.

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Alright, time for another full body checkup from the entire force.

First Shot is set during a time of widespread police corruption, Wong Yat-chung (Ti Lung) is a stubborn cop who takes on both the mob and the political establishment. In terms of story, it’s lifts from heavily from Brain De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987). If you’ve seen that film than you more, or less will know what to expect from First Shot. However, if you haven’t seen The Untouchable, here’s a couple of lifted plot points. In both, you have a good guy cop against the corrupt police system, the main character recruiting at a academy to ensure the officer they recruit aren’t corrupted, the struggle to maintain a key witness safe from the film’s villain, a scene with the main character departs from his family to put them in police protection, a vocal confrontation between the film’s hero & villain surrounded by the press after a ally of the protagonist gets killed, and both leading character getting betrayed by other high ranking officers. Also, both movies are based around true events. To call the writing of First Shot uninspired would be an understatement.

Now that the similarities have been brought up, the area they stand apart in are easy. First Shot is significantly less subtle with its portrayal of factual events. For starter, all the corrupt police officers have no qualm about showing how corrupt they are in public. Dialogue goes of it way to reinforce this fact in several scenes. There’s the slimy villain whom typically who to do something evil whenever he’s onscreen. Making the preceding events in the story a basic good guys versus bad guy story. It keeps the viewer engage in its predictable story by fleshing out its heroes, and going through fulfilling character arcs. Just like in The Untouchable, no one in this film safe from death, and it’s uncertain who is exactly next up on the chopping floor. The cast of First Shot aren’t fleshed out enough to ensure you’ll care about them, but you will see beyond them cannon fodder.

Another advantage to the film is the chase itself to lock up the villain. Seeing the heroes coming inches close to lock away their man is an engaging part of the film. Same with the deviation whenever it goes away from it source of inspiration. Alleviating the serious with some comedic scenes which generally tend to be less over the top than films typically produce in Hong Kong around this time. Resulting in a dynamic cast of heroes who makes the film somewhat worthwhile when action is absent.

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Man, looks at that face on the left

What garner mix results are some of the subplots. While characters are generally fleshed out, minus the villains, some of the subplots come out of nowhere. In the middle of the film’s climactic action sequence, one of the character reveals he’ll take revenge against the man who killed his father. This plot point was never brought up beforehand making it a convoluted way to add tension in the climax. There’s also the romantic subplot which isn’t as bad, though doesn’t come across as tragic as the film expected it to be. Would have probably helped if it didn’t immediately switch gear into a climatic action sequence over lingering on the fact an important character just died. There’s also the unexpected gay bar scene where the heroes have to undercover to gather intel, and it’s um, something odd to place into the movie to get a quick laugh. I’ll leave it at that.

What it lacks in writing quality it makes up for it in star power. For starter, the usually great Ti Lung delivers in being a good leading man. While nowhere near his best work, Ti Lung in First Shot becomes the embodiment of his character making the typical good cop feel more human. Unlike the writing, Ti Lung imbues more emotion into scenes than what would have been required of him. For example, when he’s confront Simon Yam in alley it would have been enough if Ti Lung just come across as a bitter man. However, Ti Lung comes across as more understanding, and disappointment from how he deliver his dialogue. Of course, Ti Lung partakes in some action sequences, but there’s not much of them here in terms of gunplay. What there is in fight sequences are also brief, though well put together to make up for the lack of action. I wasn’t expecting Ti Lung to partake in a choreograph fight sequence against Waise Lee in the climax, but I welcome that.

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Do you feel lucky punk? Well, do yah?

Simon Yam delivers the best performance in the cast as Sam Mok. Portraying a police officer who seeks redemption for his misgivings. He comes across the most humane out of his co-stars. While other actors also do a good job, they do feel samey since the script doesn’t offer much differentiation between them. Yam is the exception convincingly turning around a character whose fearful for his life as a officer, and seamlessly transform it into an officer looking to do right. Portraying the film’s closest thing to a complex character in a natural progression despite having to share the screen with several other actors. All the while never losing his charming side to him that makes him likable.

Maggie Cheung in the film doesn’t offer much in her role. He does well, but unfortunately unlike her male co-star she only gets one moment to portray any sadness for her character. She given much of the exposition to deliver, although she does make the most of what she can in a thankless role. Then there’s Canti Lau, and Andy Hui playing the young cadets who are best friends. While the script never capitalizes on the potential of these characters the actor sure do. It’s unlikely you’ll be shedding tears whenever one of these two bites the dust, but you’ll care to some degree. Canti Lau does pretty well in his fight scenes.

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Diner scenes, typically the most dangerous for criminals

Waise Lee plays the film villain, and chews the scenery in all his scenes. He holds nothing back in comically playing his playing role as serious as possible. He lacks much in the way of facial expressions aside from looking angry in every scene he’s in. Same thing applies to Batt Leung-Gam who plays a silence henchman. He lacks the menacing presence for his type of character, but makes up for his appearances with his fighting abilities in his action sequences. Director David Lam does a competent job helming the movie, but nothing to elevate the movie unlike his cast of actors. Finally, Lowell Lo composed the music for the film. While the only piece of music in the film that stands out is the one that plays the movie out during the ending credit it’s all around serviceable. It’s hardly noticeable, but does the job fine.

First Shot is a solid crime action flick in its own right. It doesn’t come close to matching it’s source of inspiration, The Untouchable, on any level. What it does do is execute a similar story into a straight forward action movie with mild success.

Rating: 7/10

 

Poor Subtitles Quality

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My favorite badly sub line of the movie

In the off chance you somehow manage to find a viewable copy of this by any means the hardsubs are very poor. Several times throughout my viewing of the film would there be grammatical, and spelling errors. Other points portions of the subtitles would be cut off making it easy to lose vital information. Considering at the time of this posting I’ve yet to find any other official release of First Shot. The poor subtitles will be a drawback for anyone with a passing interesting to view it, or unintentionally fun by how bad it is. Either way, take that in account you plan on viewing First Shot at any point.

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