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Gangster Payday Restaurant Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Wong You-nam, Michael Chan, Ng Chi-hung, Philip Keung, Deep Ng, Wilson Tsui, Joe Cheung, Carrie Ng, Arthur Wong, Law Wing-cheung, Lee Po-cheung

Gangster Payday (大茶飯): when he’s being muscled out of his karaoke bar by aggressive real estate developers, an ageing gangster invests in an honest business, but can’t seem to shake off his past. Despite the title and trailer hinting at an overly-familiar HK mob film; the gangster element plays second fiddle to an ‘emo triads angle where we find out that even the hardiest of HK gangbangers are just big teddybears with emotions, and gooey centres. Unfortunately, this is portrayed through a soap-operatic love triangle, which – when paired with the mid-budget televisual aesthetics and very melodic/dramatic vocal performances – means that the film lacks a ‘cinematic’ vibe. Tonally and thematically, it’s also one of those films that doesn’t export well, and westerners will probably fail to engage with (I particularly struggled with the hammy music and theatrical / play-like style). To make up for the pitfalls we’re treated to an ensemble cast featuring some of the biggest faces from the past 20 years of Hong Kong cinema, led by Anthony Wong, who puts in a great turn as a tired mob boss in his twilight. Gangster Payday isn’t for everyone: it’s a low-key, cutesy, and ultimately disappointing personal drama framed in a gangster movie; but the star power and talent of the cast (particularly Wong) prop up the film and keeping it watchable for the duration.

Score: 5/10

Gangster Payday Triad Gang Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Wong You-nam, Michael Chan, Ng Chi-hung, Philip Keung, Deep Ng, Wilson Tsui, Joe Cheung, Carrie Ng, Arthur Wong, Law Wing-cheung, Lee Po-cheung Gangster Payday Adidas Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Wong You-nam, Michael Chan, Ng Chi-hung, Philip Keung, Deep Ng, Wilson Tsui, Joe Cheung, Carrie Ng, Arthur Wong, Law Wing-cheung, Lee Po-cheung

Kung Fu Jungle, Kung Fu Killer, Last of the Best, 一個人的武林, Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang, Charlie Young, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Louis Fan, Xing Yu, David Chiang, Deep Ng

Kung Fu Killer (AKA Kung Fu Jungle, 一個人的武林, Yī Gè Rén De Wǔ Lín): a ‘Maritial Arts Maniac’ is making his mark by fighting – and killing – the best of the best in each of the traditional fighting disciplines. Donnie Yen fronts this movie, which is absolutely crammed with HK & Chinese action legends in supporting roles and bit parts – from this aspect it almost feels like a love-letter to the industry that has served up some of the most influential and heart-pounding action movies of the past few decades. Despite this, and including fights centered around boxing, kicking, grappling, swordfighting etc the film struggles to deliver. The the action scenes are a 50-50 mix of good old-fashioned kung fu and the worst of modern fights (shaky cam, quick cuts, too much wire work, lazy CGI) – leaving a lot of the action as sketchy and hard to follow. There’s also a lot of ropey and wholly unnecessary CGI of inane things like hanging washing, traffic and bamboo sticks – all of which should have been done in-camera given the budget of the movie. The choice of villain being a physically disabled person with an axe to grind also felt like a misstep. Despite the stellar cast, and grand ambitions this movie falls down through a distinct lack of originality – it feels like you’ve seen the story, fights, and characters do all of this before. I used to expect a lot more from Donnie Yen, but these days, he appears to be more interested in quantity over quality.

Score: 5.5/10

Infernal Affairs II / II: a prequel to Infernal Affairs, further backgrounding how both the police and the triads got their mole into the other’s organisation. Having to live up to such a great film clearly daunted most of those involved in this; it lacks any of the tension and urgency that makes the original great, and it’s a more superficial story spread finely over a longer runtime. The second tripping point is that there’s too many (underdeveloped) characters, meaning that the story’s just not as focused or tight. Of the two hour runtime, it picks up around 60 minutes, then drops back again until the dynamite ending – the rest feels like forced melodrama for the most part. Fortunately, two big hitters really pull the film along;  Anthony Wong has an effortless presence, and Eric Tsang is surprisingly emotive for a gangster character – the only downside is that they share the screen time with everyone else. There are a few political elements like the Hong Kong handover, but it’s not really significant to the story, and feels like they’re there for stylistic / filler / nostalgia purposes. Finally, being a prequel, it lacks the sting in knowing that almost everyone survives because their characters are central in the first film. Infernal Affairs II not a bad film by any stretch, and sits above the generic Asian HK cop/triad films, but it feels like a hollow movie, created solely to ride on the coattails of the first film.

Score: 6/10