films seen
48
average score
3.03*
nationality
China - 72 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

The man that elevated Hong Kong blockbusters to a higher level and kept on raising the bar, even at a later age. Hark has been at the top for 35 years and even though not all his films are great, he never let commercial cinema get the best of him.

The good stuff

Green Snake

Ching Se
1993 / 98m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Fantasy
Green Snake poster

Tsui Hark at his best, the film is lush in its visuals and score, is entertaining to the core and wastes no time on unnecessary things. Very likeable and extremely well-made.

New Dragon Gate Inn

Sun Lung Moon Hak Chan
1992 / 103m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
New Dragon Gate Inn poster

One of Hong Kong's 90s martial arts highlights, though it's actually quite light on action. There's a lot of fun to be had with this one, especially once everyone has arrived at the inn. A typical product of Hong Kong's relentless cinema machine, delivering a fine mix of comedy and action.

Once upon a Time in China

Wong Fei Hung
1991 / 134m - Hong Kong
Fantasy
Once upon a Time in China poster

A prime 90s martial arts classic. A bit longer than usual, time spent on exploring the relationship between the Chinese and foreign invaders/merchants. But don't worry, there's plenty of superb martial arts action, establishing Jet Li as one of the best in the business while fully establishing Hark as a prime action director.

Time and Tide

Shun Liu Ni Liu
2000 / 113m - Hong Kong
Action
Time and Tide poster

Don't be mistaken, even though Time and Tide is somewhat atypical for a Hong Kong action film, it's still a pretty pure genre effort.

Triangle

Tie Saam Gok
2007 / 93m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
Triangle poster

A celebration of Hong Kong crime cinema. Three prominent Hong Kong directors each get a 30-minute segment to tell their part of a story of three incidental thieves, who have to do their utmost best to keep their freshly acquired bounty out of the hands of the police and the Triads. Dark, brooding and stylish, a superb experiment that I wouldn't mind seeing repeated.

Once Upon a Time in China II

Wong Fei Hung Ji Yi: Naam Yi Dong Ji Keung
1992 / 113m - Hong Kong
Action
Once Upon a Time in China II poster

Hark Tsui's sequel is every bit as good as the first film. While the first hour divides its time between comedy, drama and action, the second part is a grandiose action spectacle with some of the best martial arts Hong Kong cinema has ever brought forth. When you have Jet Li facing off against Donnie Yen, with Woo-ping Yuen directing the action scenes, magic happens.

Seven Swords

Qi Jian
2005 / 153m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
Seven Swords poster

Hark Tsui puts out another sprawling martial arts epic. With a stellar cast, a sizeable budget and a commendable lack of CG, he made a film that is well able to stand the test of time. The action scenes are spectacular, the locations are grand, and the bad guy is a real hoot. Hark takes his time, but the film is never too slow or laggy. Seven Swords is easily one of his best films, and stands proud among the Chinese martial arts epics of the early 00s.

Solid pieces

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

Di Renjie Zhi Sidatianwang
2018 / 132m - China
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings poster

Tsui is back for the third part of the Detective Dee series and that's a good thing. The quality remains high and even though it never attempts to be anything beyond solid entertainment, that's fine with me. Four Heavenly Kings is another lush, fun and amusing action mystery that entertains from start to finish.

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back

Journey to the West: Demon Chapter
2017 / 109m - China
Comedy, Fantasy, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back poster

Stephen Chow hired Hark Tsui to continue his work on the Journey to the West saga. The trailer is hilarious (it's basically just Tsui and Chow bickering), the film itself a good step up from Chow's earlier film. It's clear that Tsui was a much better fit for this type of CG/blockbuster material, but a masterpiece this is clearly not.

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The film offers up yet another part of the famous Journey to the West book. I honestly lost track of how everything connects and what bits I've seen. It doesn't really help that the film feels very episodic. In any case, the monk and his disciples continue their journey, while facing the dangers they encounter on their travels.

This film is first-class entertainment made with a sizeable budget. Tsui knows how to keep everything in check, the pacing is absolutely mental (with every five minutes something new and crazy happening), the comedy is decent and the CG is solid. It's what I want from this kind of film, as long as you don't expect anything too out of the ordinary, you'll be good.

The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Zhì Qu Weihu Shan
2014 / 141m - China
Action, War, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
The Taking of Tiger Mountain poster

Old man Hark Tsui seems to have finally settled down. Gone are the days of lively martial arts films, snappy comedies and risky (at least for Hong Kong standards) projects. Nowadays Tsui invests his time in epic blockbusters. Not too surprisingly, he's actually quite skilled at making them.

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Like his two previous films, Zhi Qu Weihu Shan (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) was shot in sprawling 3D. Reportedly Tsui is quite capable of handling 3D imagery in his films, it's just that I'm not a very big fan of the whole 3D/live action thing. Instead I settled for the boring yet pleasantly comfortable 2D version, which I believe was the right decision. Even while watching the 2D version it was pretty easy to spot the 3D effects, something that would've bothered me no end if I'd seen the film in 3D. To each his own though, I'm just glad the choice was there.

Zhi Qu Weihu Shan feels like Tsui's answer to Wen Jiang's Let the Bullets Fly. Both films are extremely light-hearted action flicks with an unmistakeable tongue in cheek approach. Tsui's film may not be as balanced and accomplished compared to Jiang's and it's clearly geared at a more forgiving audience, but the link between the two is definitely there.

The plot is pretty convoluted, but the film's premise is actually quite simple. A gang of criminals has its stronghold on top of a snowy mountain, a small but dedicated police force is tasked with breaching the stronghold and capturing the leader. Start with some espionage and people double-crossing each other, add a couple of long-running, high octane action scenes, finish of with a touch of drama and there you go: two hours of shameless entertainment.

Two things stand out. First of all there's Tony Leung Ka-Fai as the lead criminal. His character may be a silly caricature, but Ka-Fai has so much fun playing him that he quickly became one of the funniest villains I've come across the past few years. Then there are the crazy, over the top action sequences that take up a pretty big part of the film. Tsui clearly didn't aim for realism here, leaning heavily on CG (just check the crazy antics of that plane during the finale) to support some outrageous action scenes. If that's not your kind of thing, it's probably best to stay away from this film.

Sadly the parts in between are a little less entertaining. The drama and the espionage bits are decent enough, but they still needlessly slow the film down. Tsui also misses the raw talent to rise above the commercial foundation of the film, failing to bring that little extra which is needed to give a film like this a more lasting impression. Still the action is fun and exciting and while it lasts, it's a wildly entertaining experience. If you're okay with that it's hard to go wrong with this one.

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

Di Renjie: Shen Du Long Wang
2013 / 134m - China
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon poster

Tsui takes the prequel route. After the success of his first Detective Dee film, a sequel was inevitable. Films/franchises like these have limitless opportunities for sequels, so why not go back to the beginning? This second film tries to distance itself a bit more from Ritchie's Holmes films and adds a serious dash of 80s Hong Kong fantasy.

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A young Dee arrives in the capital, hoping to make it big. Eager to prove himself, he latches onto a rumor about a sea monster that attacks the city at night. The empress has hired Yuchi, her own investigator, to get on top of the problem. Yuchi isn't looking for any help, but Dee isn't willing to simply back down and let someone else solve the case for him.

This could've been another Hong Kong blockbuster classic, were it not for some overambitious CG. The sets, costumes, and action all look incredibly lush, but the CG cannot match that level and comes off as cheap and distracting. There's still quite a bit to look forward to, including a sprawling finale, I just wish Tsui had shown a bit more restraint where needed.

The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Long Men Fei Jia
2011 / 122m - China
Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate poster

I had rather high expectations for this one. To see Hark Tsui reunite with Jet Li near the Dragon Gate setting is a dream come true, but like many Hong Kong films of this era, Flying Swords is held back by some doubty CG. There's still a lot of fun to be had, I just wished the level of refinement had been a bit more in line with the names attached.

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The plot is pretty negligible, but that's not a big worry. It's basically one big build-up toward a face-off. Li plays Chow, a skilled sword fighter with noble intentions, his adversary is a crafty eunuch with more malicious plans. The two cross paths and their fate becomes intertwined until they come together for a final confrontation in the legendary Dragon Gate Inn.

There's not enough physical action with Li involved and there are too many CG-powered projectiles flying around. The editing is also a little awkward and not as fluid as similar films from the 90s. The budget was clearly there though and the finale is still a very worthy spectacle, it just isn't quite as good as it could and should've been.

Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Di Renjie: Tong Tian Di Guo
2010 / 119m - China
Fantasy, Action, Mystery, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame poster

Hark harks back to the good old days of Hong Kong martial arts cinema while jumping on the local Sherlock Holmes bandwagon. The result is a fun and entertaining blockbuster, that does feel just a bit too safe and familiar for its own good. People looking for properly budgeted Hong Kong cinema should have no worries whatsoever though, the film delivers.

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When the trusted subjects of empress Wu are taken out one by one, she worries that her inauguration might be postponed. She pardons detective Dee and allows him to assemble a crew to investigate the murders. Dee jumps at the opportunity and finds a few capable men who will assist him with his quest to uncover the culprit and his motives.

The veteran actors (Andy Lay and Tony Leung Ka Fai most notably) are perfect for their parts, ChainDeng is an impressive newcomer, the martial arts scenes are spectacular (Sammo Hung says hi) and the sets look lush and mysterious. Tsui's direction is fine too, but there's nothing that truly dazzles. Very capable and amusing cinema, but no masterpiece.

Missing

Sam Hoi Tsam Yan
2008 / 118m - China
Drama, Fantasy, Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Missing poster

An odd little Hark project. It's not the type of film you'd expect him to do. It's also not a film that easily compares to other films, trying to cram in many different genres, while also attempting to do something novel with each of them. Needless to say, it's a pretty inconsistent film, but if you crave something different it's definitely worth a shot.

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Chen is a romantic soul, who once buried a wedding ring in an old ruin, his all-time favorite spot. When he finally finds the girl he wants to marry, he takes her with him, hoping to dig up the ring and propose to her. When they arrive, Chen suddenly disappears. Not much later a body is found, but it is impossible to identify. Chen's sister and his future fiancee start an investigation, hoping to learn what happened to him.

The first hour is pretty good, the second a bit wobblier. Hark switches too much between different genres and while every segment works well enough in its own right, the succession is a little distracting. The cast is pretty stellar though and the film looks slick and contemporary. I also appreciated the effort to do something different, especially in an industry that is extremely formula-based, but Hark may not have been the right guy for the job.

Knock Off

1998 / 91m - USA
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Knock Off poster

Completely nonsensical, but that is exactly what saved this film from mediocrity. Rather than move to the US, Hark brought over some Belgian Hollywood "talent" to Hong Kong. It's immediately obvious Hark feels way more at home shooting in a familiar environment, which translates to an overall better and more amusing film. If you can accept some of the kitsch that is.

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Marcus Ray represents a jeans brand in Hong Kong. It's a pretty ordinary job, but things are about to heat up when it is discovered that Russian criminals are making counterfeit jeans and are padding them with experimental war tech, hoping to sell them to interested parties. Ray is the only one who is able to recognize the counterfeit jeans.

So yeah, the plot is crap, but it's not that much worse compared to some of its peers. What makes this film fun is the fact that every scene is made to be as spectacular as possible. Hark is overcompensating like a madman, and somehow it works. Van Damme isn't at his worst, the action is pretty spectacular and the pacing/runtime are on point. Not at all on par with Hark's best Hong Kong work, but very amusing regardless.

Love in the Time of Twilight

Hua Yue Jia Qi
1995 / 103m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Love in the Time of Twilight poster

Hark does crazy Hong Kong comedy. I didn't expect too much from this one, it's a pretty obscure entry in Hark's oeuvre and that usually means a film's international appeal is poised to be very limited. Which it is, I guess, since the West isn't too tuned into HK comedies. Hark goes completely mental with it though, a bit like Jing Wong's best comedy work, only with a better director calling the shots.

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Yan-Yan is desperately looking for a man to marry, but no good options are available to her. The only one who takes an interest is Kong, but he has more fun teasing her. But then Kong dies, and he returns to her as a ghost, hoping Yan-Yan can save him. They both travel back in time to keep their former selves from fighting, but if their mission fails it will cost their lives.

Hong Kong comedy is an acquired taste, but at its best, it is so wacky that is hard not to laugh. And that's what Hark is going for here. There are some very inventive scenes (even though they may not make all that much sense), the pacing is pretty crazy and the cast does a solid job. It's not what I'd call a masterpiece, but it sure is funny and entertaining.

Once Upon a Time in China V

Huang Fei-hung Zhi Wu: Long Cheng Jian Ba
1994 / 101m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Once Upon a Time in China V poster

Wong Fei Hung and the pirates. This fifth entry in the Once Upon a Time in China franchise doesn't bring anything new to the table, except for its pirate villains. I loved the film when I first watched it, and a good two decades later I still like it a lot, but I don't think it can really measure up to the best (or even better) films in its genre.

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Wong Fei Hung and his ever-growing group of students and protectees undertake a journey. On their way, they get involved in a scuffle with pirates who are terrorizing the seas. Hung is a righteous man and decides to help the locals with their plight by getting rid of the pirates for them, which spells a lot of trouble for Hung and his companions.

The fight with the old pirate is great and what I expect to see from a film like this, the rest of part five never really reached that same level. The comedy has its moments and the action is nice enough, but the bar should be higher for Hark. There's also a bit too much padding, adding 15 pointless minutes to the runtime. Still good, just not as great as I remembered it to be.

The Lovers

Leung Juk
1994 / 107m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance, Fantasy
3.5*/5.0*
The Lovers poster

Hark always does things a little differently from the rest. For the most part, The Lovers is a very typical Hong Kong comedy, warts and all. Silly humor, exaggerated performances, and a nonsensical plot combine to make a fun comedy romp. But the film isn't as loud and in-your-face as most of its peers, which is why the eventual drama works better than expected.

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Chu's dad wants his daughter to get married, but there are no interested parties. As a last resort, he disguises his daughter as a boy and sends her to school. There she meets Liang, who slowly falls for Chu's charm. Liang is confused though, as he doesn't know that Chu is actually a girl, and she is afraid to reveal her true identity to him.

If you don't care for Hong Kong comedy The Lovers won't convert you, otherwise this is a film that holds a few nice surprises. The actors do a solid job, the comedy is fun, and the pacing is on point. It's typical genre work with a little twist, the thing I've come to expect from Hark's better films. Not a true masterpiece, but enjoyable genre filler indeed.

Once Upon a Time in China III

Wong Fei Hung Ji Saam: Si Wong Jaang Ba
1993 / 109m - Hong Kong
Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Once Upon a Time in China III poster

Part 3 in the now infamous martial arts franchise. This is the film where the series loses its darker edge, and the comedy takes on a more central role. There's also a little less actual fighting, with a stronger focus on lion dances and acrobatics. Also very cool and spectacular, but not quite the same as watching Jet Li at the peak of his form flying around and knocking out opponents with legs and fists.

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Hung arrives in Beijing, right on time to participate in a big tournament, organized to get people interested in martial arts again while teaching them the value of local traditions. A villainous clan also enters the tournament with less noble intentions, and they make a real effort to get rid of their competitors well before they have to face them in the arena.

The dream team is still very much present in this third part, but the new direction didn't really warrant the longer runtime anymore. 90 minutes suffices for a film like this. The comedy is nice enough, the lion dances/fights are lovely to watch and the production quality is definitely on point. It's just not quite as good and distinctive as the first two films.

The Raid

Cai Shu Zhi Heng Sao Qian Jun
1991 / 100m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
The Raid poster

Hark's the Raid is in fact a true raid on the senses. It is one of those manically paced Hong Kong action flicks with a serious dash of comedy on the side. There are more plot holes here than there are coherent moments, but if you have a soft spot for Hong Kong cinema, there's plenty to distract you from all the chaos. Exactly what I want from this kind of entertainment.

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Mong is the leader of a group of rebels who want to bring the current reign to its knees. When he is hit by a gas attack, doctor Choy does what he can to save Mong. He is unsuccessful, but Choy himself wants to join the fight of the rebels. They believe he is too old, Choy doesn't want to back down and assembles a group of fighters who want to help him prove his worth.

The Raid is an acquired taste, certainly when you're only used to Western cinema. The comedy is bold, the performances are well over-the-top and the action scenes are extremely dynamic. The film hardly slows down and the plot is almost impossible to follow, but all of that is just part of the experience. The Raid is goofy, wacky, and impressive, the perfect filler in Hark's extensive oeuvre.

Swordsman

Xiaoao Jiang Hu
1990 / 120m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Swordsman poster

The first Swordman film marks the start of a classic martial arts trilogy. Maybe it's not quite as famous in the West, but if you like martial arts this is a very easy recommendation. Not that big of a surprise when you know the film combines the talents of King Hu, Hark Tsui, and Siu-Tung Ching, some of Hong Kong's greatest and biggest action directors.

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The plot is quite intricate and detailed, but at its core, it is really very easy to follow. An important document is stolen from the Imperial Library. The guards are fired right away and the emperor employs the services of Ling to retrieve the document. Ling accepts his mission, but he isn't the only one looking to get his hands on the stolen pages.

Swordsman is a fun blend of the old and the new. On the one hand, it's easy to see the Shaw Bros legacy, but you can also find clear indications of what 90s HK martial arts would grow into. The action scenes are on point and the plot is solid, it's just that the runtime is quite long and the pacing a little lacking. Good fun though, and essential viewing before watching the two sequels.

A Better Tomorrow III

Ying Hung Boon Sik III Jik Yeung Ji Gor
1989 / 105m - Hong Kong
Action, War
3.5*/5.0*
A Better Tomorrow III poster

I liked this third part better than the first two. That's primarily because I find Hark does drama much better than Woo. I agree that's not the most important part of an action film, but in Woo's films, the cheesiness can get a tad annoying. There's none of that here, just the stylish action and slightly better-executed dramatic impulses.

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Mark travels to Saigon to meet up with his nephew, who was just been released from prison. He makes him a deal he can't refuse, and together with Chow, they start a little weapon smuggling business that will make them rich in no time. But then Chow's husband gets out of prison and he isn't too happy with the competition. Mark and his new companions will have to stand their ground.

The lead trio is pretty good, the action is stylish (not quite the same as Woo, but Hark is a pretty capable action director himself) and the drama is a lot easier to stomach. It's not trivial to take over a respected series like this, but Hark did very well and delivered a film that is closely related to the first two but does carry the director's signature marks.

Peking Opera Blues

Do Ma Daan
1986 / 104m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
3.5*/5.0*
Peking Opera Blues poster

One of the biggest Hark Tsui classics, and it's not difficult to see why. The formula that would be copied all over Hong Kong during the next decade is already there for all to see. Many would improve on it in the years to come, but Hark did a lot of the groundwork and delivers a very fun and polished film. If you like a good martial arts comedy, look no further.

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The army takes over Beijing in 1913, and immediately some of its citizens band together to revolt. Yin, the daughter of a general, returns to her home country to join the resistance. She is tasked to deliver a secret document at the opera. There she meets two other women who join her in her quest, but a confrontation with the police forces them to flee.

The action scenes are lovely (the ending, in particular, is great), the cinematography is on point and the performances are lively and fun. The film isn't best in class, but that's only because others have copied and improved on the originals. If you care about Hong Kong cinema, this is an essential watch and one that would cement Hark's further career.

Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Xin Shu Shan Jian Ke
1983 / 95m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain poster

One of Hark's earliest successes, and a certified classic by now. It predates films like A Chinese Ghost Story by quite a few years, but the template for those successes is already visible here. The technical aspects aren't quite on point yet (the effects in particular are pretty blah), but there's so much joy and energy radiating from this film that it hardly matters.

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The plot is a veritable train wreck though. The premise is pretty simple, a young soldier is lost and finds himself wandering in magic mountain territory. There he meets some honorable masters who are wrapped up in a dangerous battle between good and evil. The young soldier decides to join their cause. When it gets to the details of the plot, things get way more confusing.

I'm not a big fan of the handcrafted effects, the comedy, the performances, and the chaotic nature of the plot are also very much an acquired taste. I was really surprised to see it executed this well in such an old film. It doesn't happen that often, but I liked this better than the remake. Hark certainly didn't steal his reputation, great genre fun.

All the Wrong Clues

Gui Ma Zhi Duo Xing
1981 / 94m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
All the Wrong Clues poster

An old Hark film that managed to win me over one minute at a time. The film starts off rather plainly and I didn't have very high hopes for it the first 30 minutes or so, but then Hark gets into his groove. It's rare that I see a film that gets a lot better as it progresses, I definitely wouldn't have expected it from a Hong Kong comedy, but here we are.

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When Capone is released from prison, he plans to seek out the private detective who put him away. Capone feels he was trapped, and he wants revenge for the time he wasted in jail. The detective gets help from a close friend who warns him about Capone's plans, but Capone gathers some friends of his own to track down the detective.

The first half hour, the plot and comedy aren't all that great. Then follows a pretty cool bar scene where Hark shows he can do better. And from that point on, the film grows funnier and more entertaining by the minute. The performances are solid, the cinematography is on point and the finale is pretty damn awesome. Hark showcases his potential, and the rest is history

The Butterfly Murders

Die Bian
1979 / 88m - Hong Kong
Action, Horror, Mystery
3.5*/5.0*
The Butterfly Murders poster

Hark Tsui's first, and man was he eager to prove his worth and leave a mark. Hong Kong is best known for its genre cinema, and most directors start at the very bottom, emulating what is popular on the cheap. Not Hark. His first film is a thing of its own, a very unique title in a sea of Shaw Bros martial arts look-a-likes and copycats. And it's damn good too.

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When a corpse is discovered in a local shop, a journalist assembles his own ragtag team to start up a proper investigation. After some digging, the traces lead to a castle further down the road, where a community lives separate from the rest. They are dealing with some problems of their own, as strange butterflies are bothering the inhabitants of the castle.

The martial arts is probably the weakest part of the film, but that's not a big issue as it isn't the main focus here. Instead, we get a pretty straight-faced mystery/thriller. No inappropriate comedy, surprisingly solid and earnest performances, and impressive, moody cinematography. A perfect calling card for Hark, and one of the best Hong Kong films of the 70s. Well-recommended.

The inoffensive

The Battle at Lake Changjin

Chang Jin Hu
2021 / 176m - China
Action, War
3.0*/5.0*
The Battle at Lake Changjin poster

So, China found out that people love a good war flick. In recent years, there's been a notable rise of blockbuster war films, with big-name directors tied to them. The Battle of Lake Changing did even better and tied no less than three of the biggest directors in China to its production, just to manage its scope.

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The plot isn't all that interesting, except that for Westerners it might be somewhat novel to see the US army as the bad guys, whereas The Chinese soldiers are the heroes. You basically get three battles round and about Lake Changing, highlighting the bravery, perseverance and comradery of the Chinese army.

You can't escape propaganda in a film like this, and if that triggers you, it's probably best to ignore this film altogether. If on the other hand you just see good guys smashing up bad guys, the film certainly delivers in spades. The scenes with the tank in the little village are superb, the rest of the action is on point too, but three hours is a little much. It's not a great film, certainly not up to the level of the names attached, but I had fun with it.

3.0*/5.0*
Septet: The Story of Hong Kong poster

Not the greatest anthology. Don't be fooled by the names involved, I know they include some of the biggest Hong Kong directors from the past few decades, but the anthology itself is quite rigid and singular. Only Tsui Hark dares to do something different, the rest all went for sentimental throwbacks. Much like their Chinese counterparts.

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The stories are pretty simple, Sammo Hung reminisces about classic martial arts training, To looks at the stock market, Ann Hui digs up the old school life and Patrick Tam finds two lovers torn apart. Hark is the only one who had a bit of fun, throwing us inside a mental hospital where doctors and patients are too alike to distinguish.

I'm not a fan of nostalgia and sentimentality, many of the directors present aren't really equipped to deal with these themes either. It would've been a lot better if they'd stayed closer to their signature craft, that's what the anthology concept is for. A little disappointing, though I can't say I'm all that surprised. Hark deserves lots of props for his short though.

All about Women

Nüren Bu Huai
2008 / 120m - China
Comedy, Romance
3.0*/5.0*
All about Women poster

A decent Hong Kong rom-com. It's obvious this wasn't really Hark's strong suit though. The comedy is pretty solid (if you like the HK brand of funnies that is), but the romance/drama that starts to take over during the second half felt less accomplished. A film split into two different halves in other words, and one that shows Hark's limitations as a director without becoming a true failure.

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All about Women tracks three young Beijing women and their dating problems. The first one has a proper job in a bank, but to her own surprise, she falls for a much older professor. The second one works in a hospital where she loves digging into patients' personal files, unknowing there is someone else checking her out. And the final girl loves Internet dating, only her prospective partner has no interest in the online world.

The film has proper cinematography and the first half is pretty funny. Then the mood switches and things start to go downhill. The cheesy Canto-pop doesn't help, the romance and drama element miss their target and the runtime begins to work against the film. It's still pretty decent filler I think, it's just that I expected a bit more from Hark.

Commissioned anthology that was made to lift the spirit of Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic. The who's who of Hong Kong cinema participated, but the result is a little uneven. Not too surprising considering the exterior motives behind this anthology, and there are a couple of worthwhile entries, but overall it's probably best to lower your expectations when watching this.

The Legend of Zu

Shu Shan Zheng Zhuan
2001 / 104m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Action
3.0*/5.0*
The Legend of Zu poster

Hark remakes his own fantastical martial arts brawler two decades later. It's a pretty successful remake, capturing the spirit of the first film, only updated to the standard of its time. That doesn't make it a great film, in fact, there's quite a lot that doesn't work, but the sheer energy and boldness of the production is what made this a worthwhile watch.

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The Zu mountains are located between Heaven and Earth. It's a place where mythical figures live, the Omei kingdom being the strongest of Zu. Their world is under attack when Amnesia, an ambitious earthling, finds a way to drain Zu's powers and use them for his own betterment. The people of Zu will have to band together to get rid of this threat.

The 2001 Zu is an unapologetic CGI fest. The quality is pretty hit-and-miss and it looks gaudy as fuck, but there's a level of dedication that gives the film its unique vibe. The cast is pretty cool too, the pacing is insane and Hark goes full out on the plot. It's not a film that made a whole lot of sense (though people versed in Chinese folklore and literature may have a different experience), but I sure had a good time with it.

Shanghai Blues

Shang Hai Zhi Yen
1984 / 103m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
3.0*/5.0*
Shanghai Blues poster

A slightly more generic mix of comedy and romance, with a splash of drama on the side. Hark already demonstrated he could do better, but like most Hong Kong directors he was unable to fully escape Hong Kong's well-oiled genre film-producing industry. Shanghai Blues isn't a bad film, but if you're new to Hark and you want to quench your blues thirst, go for Peking Opera first.

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Right before being shipped off to war a young recruit meets a lovely girl underneath a bridge, looking for shelter from the Japanese bombs. They make a deal to meet again after the war, but they don't know each other's names, so they have no clue where to look. Ten years later, they will meet again, unaware of their past together.

Hark relies a bit too much on situational comedy, which isn't my favorite. Only when he takes it to extremes does it become properly funny, but those moments are a little too sparse. The plot and performances are decent, but the pacing is a little slow for the amount of predictability present. It's certainly not a bad film, it's just that I expect to see a little extra in Hark's work.

Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind

Di Yi Lei Xing Wei Xian
1980 / 95m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind poster

Early Hark films are pretty cool, Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind is no exception. If you're expecting a Hong Kong rip-off of Spielberg's famous film (like I did) you'll be surprised to find there's no real link between the two, besides the titular reference. Instead, you're getting a somewhat gritty mix of crime and action elements, properly executed by a young Hark Tsui.

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Three youngsters like to make trouble, though most of their pranks are harmless. When they set off a small bomb in a local theater they're spotted by a peculiar woman. She goes after the boys and blackmails them so that she can enter their little group. Slowly but surely they are forced to do increasingly dangerous stunts, and in no time they have the police and the Triads on their neck.

The setup is a little odd (more so for a Hong Kong film) and it took me a while to get a handle on the vibe Hark was going for. The film is a lot more direct and violent compared to similar films of that era, but I'm not complaining. The cinematography is a little basic, but the restoration definitely helps. Add some solid performances and a few surprising twists, and you have a pretty good film.

We're Going to Eat You

Di Yu Wu Men
1980 / 90m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
We're Going to Eat You poster

A weird genre-bender from Hark. The mix of genres isn't too uncommon of course, Hong Kong loves to blend action, comedy, and horror, but the film was a bit grittier than I expected it to be. Mind, this is according to Hong Kong standards. Don't go in expecting a bona fide, all-guns-blazing, horror film or you'll be sorely disappointed.

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A detective and a thief travel together in chase of a wanted criminal. They follow him to a remote island, where they hope to corner him. Once they arrive on the island they quickly notice something is off. They landed on an island full of cannibals, so survival suddenly becomes the number one priority.

I expected a little more after Hark's previous film, but this is still good fun. The martial arts stand out as the best part, but the comedy is pretty funny too. The music is quite loud and crazy, but it does add something unique to the film, which doesn't happen too often in Hong Kong cinema. Far from his best work, but if you're looking for something frantic and entertaining, you could do a whole lot worse.

Worthy but flawed

Water Gate Bridge

Chang Jin Hu Zhi Shui Men Qiao
2022 / 153m - China
Action, War
2.5*/5.0*
Water Gate Bridge poster

More Chinese war propaganda. The Battle at Lake Changjin must've been quite the success, or this endeavor was simply so huge that they figured a second film would be necessary to recoup the effort. If you're looking for 150 minutes of action and sentimentality, Hark, Lam and Chen have you covered.

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The plot is basic, we get another battlefield where the Chinese soldiers are allowed to show their bravery, their commitment and their selflessness. This time they're monitoring a bridge that is right on the escape route of the American troops. A strategic location that will form the center of another heated battle.

The action is pretty spectacular, but it does get quite messy, and the film doesn't really let up. And when it does stop, it's only to make room for some sentimental drama. It's a shame, as these directors are capable of making way better films. Let's just hope they're not turning this into a trilogy.

Double Team

1997 / 93m - USA
Comedy, Sci-fi, Action, Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
Double Team poster

Bad but in a somewhat adorable way. Double Team is in no sense a film with any serious pretensions, Hark makes that clear enough through some pointed details. It's generic action entertainment hoping to amuse its audience for its expected runtime. And that it does, as long as you can be a little forgiving and keep your expectations in check.

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Quinn is part of an anti-terrorist unit and he's one of the best there. On his last job he fucks up and when he awakes, he finds himself on a well-guarded prison island. When he hears that the criminal he was after now has it out for his pregnant wife, he has no choice but to escape his holding place. He teams up with Yaz, but time is ticking.

When Mickey Rourke delivers the best performance of the entire cast, you can imagine what the rest looks like. The action scenes are decent (though the actual fight choreo is a bit lacking), Hark brings a little visual HK flair to the production and there's a level of self-awareness that gets you through the worst parts rather safely. Not a good film in any way, but I got a few solid laughs out of it and it was never boring.

Twin Dragons

Shuang Long Hui
1992 / 104m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Twin Dragons poster

A Hark/Chan classic, but I expected a bit more. Both are very good in their own right, only when put together, they seem to amount to less than the sum of their individual parts. It's not that Twin Dragons is a bad film, it's just that it is not up to par with what you'd expect from either headliner. Passable Hong Kong entertainment in other words.

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Two identical twins have been separated a birth when a criminal tries to escape the hospital. One of them ends up in the US and becomes a lauded classical music director. The other one remains in Hong Kong and becomes a capable mechanic. Years later they finally meet up again, where a case of mistaken identities will make both their lives a lot more complicated.

Two roles for Jackie Chan, helmed by Hark Tsui. It all sounded very nice on paper, but the reality is that I felt like I'd seen it all before, done better too. Chan is his usual quirky self, but the action choreography is a little plain. The comedy is fun but not quite zany enough, and the presentation looked a little rushed. Not bad, just not up to snuff.

The Banquet

Haomen Yeyan
1991 / 97m - Hong Kong
Comedy
2.5*/5.0*
The Banquet poster

Spot the cameo comedy. Hong Kong loves a silly flick with an elaborate ensemble cast (especially when Lunar New Year is around the corner), for this one they even landed four different directors to do the honors. Is it a very structured, coherent, and sensible film? No. Is it a pretty amusing romp that is tirelessly energetic and dynamic? Well yes.

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The Prince of Kuwait is coming to Hong Kong, and a slick realtor sees his chance to make a deal of a lifetime. The Prince is planning to sell quite a bit of land, but to prove his worth the realtor will have to convince the Prince he has a strong bond with his father. The problem is he hasn't seen his dad in years. He pretends to have cancer in order to convince his dad to move in with him.

The cast is pretty phenomenal, everybody with any kind of presence at the time of shooting seems to have been included. Their roles don't always make sense, sometimes they even get a completely unrelated throwaway scene just to make an appearance, but at least the comedy remains the film's number one priority. Not great in any way, but this was pretty light and amusing Hong Kong comedy fare.

Aces Go Places III: Our Man from Bond Street

Zuijia Paidang Zhi Nuhuang Miling
1984 / 81m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
2.5*/5.0*
Aces Go Places III: Our Man from Bond Street poster

Hark takes on the popular Aces Go Places franchise and directs the third part. I can't say he did a very good job, certainly not after being pleasantly surprised by part 2 of the series. Our Man from Bond Street isn't that bad and fans of Hong Kong crime comedies will no doubt have a decent time, it's just that Hark could've done better with the material that was given to him.

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Our master thief is back at it again, this time he's after a precious gem that's in the hands of Queen Elisabeth II. He is bested in his efforts and sees the gem being stolen by some crafty imposters. Together with the police he has to figure out who got to the gem before him, only then will he be able to make a proper move himself.

Part 3 is a pretty typical heist/thieving comedy, the kind that was very popular at the time. Hark usually fares well doing a mix of crime and comedy, and while there is some funny daftness on display, it's not quite as over-the-top or silly compared to the previous film. Decent filler, but nothing more.

Dubious filler

Tristar

Da San Yuan
1996 / 106m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
2.0*/5.0*
Tristar poster

The mid-90s were a terrible period for Hong Kong cinema, none of the big names were able to escape the sudden collapse of an empire. Tristar is one of Hark's attempts to keep his career afloat, but the result is nothing like the polished films he delivered in prior years. It's passable filler for completists, others can skip this without feeling too bad about themselves.

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A young prostitute goes to church to make a confession, where she tells the priest she faces an enormous debt. The priest is shocked when he hears her story. Later on, he finds her address on a piece of paper she left behind, and he decides to help her out. He observes the woman from a distance and wants to make her life a little better without her noticing.

There is potential here, that's for sure. There are some fun ideas and the setup is interesting enough, but the rest is simply insufficient. The film looks cheap, the soundtrack is incredibly poor and the performances are way below the norm. The once so well-oiled machine is visibly unraveling, but there are some remnants of Hark's former glory to ease the pain, if not by a lot.

The Blade

Dao
1995 / 105m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
2.0*/5.0*
The Blade poster

I'm not quite sure where it went wrong with The Blade. On paper, I should have really liked this Tsui Hark production, but the film itself turned out to be a pretty big disappointment. It presents itself as a mid-90s update of a typical Shaw Bros narrative, something Hark should be able to pull off with his eyes closed, but I found the result to be quite meager.

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A young swordfighter seeks out the killer of his father. When he has finally located him, a bloody battle ensues and the boy loses his arm in the fight. People believe he didn't survive the bout, but the boy is only temporarily retreating, learning himself how to fight properly with just the one arm. With his newfound skills, he hopes to avenge his father's death.

Hong Kong martial arts films are known for their spectacular choreographies and smart editing, and that's where The Blade failed for me. The action looks incredibly messy and random. The performances aren't that great either and the plot is as basic as it gets. I expected a lot more from Hark, who delivered quite a few great action films in his career. The Blade is one of his rare misfires.

The Chinese Feast

Jin Yu Man Tang
1995 / 100m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
2.0*/5.0*
The Chinese Feast poster

The food comedy is one of those strange Hong Kong phenomena that occasionally enjoy a small burst of popularity. There are some pretty cool films in this little niche, sadly, Hark's The Chinese Feast isn't one of them. It's passable niche filler, but I was really hoping for something with a little extra, and it's simply not here.

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Kit is a small-time gangster who moves to Canada to start his life anew. As an added bonus, he can spend more time with his girlfriend. He wants to become a cook, but Kit won't get much time to learn the tricks of the trade. In Canada, he meets a woman who enters him into an ultimate cook-off, and Kit is forced to seek out the help of a renowned chef to uphold his honor.

While a cook-off doesn't sound too cinematic, Hong Kong directors tend to get quite crafty when it's time to spice up the battle. The dishes are pretty gross, and films like God of Cookery did a much better job pimping the food-based fights. It's still somewhat entertaining and there are some funny moments, but we all know Hark can do a lot better.

I Love Maria

Tie Jia Wu Di Ma Li A
1988 / 96m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Sci-fi
2.0*/5.0*
I Love Maria poster

A typical Hong Kong vehicle, with some minor Japanese influences. Hong Kong isn't too skilled when it comes to sci-fi/mecha adventures though, and so the result is quite cheesy, instead of fun and badass. The film still works as a somewhat quirky Hark comedy, but I would only recommend this one to people who appreciate outlier cinema regardless of quality.

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A criminal gang is terrorizing Hong Kong with the help of Pioneer I & II, two lethal robots. When Pioneer II gets damaged during a mission she falls into the hands of a skilled programmer. He reprograms the bot to help him fight the gang, but when he teams up with an ex-gang member, both the police and the criminals are on his tail.

I Love Maria offers a basic mix of crime and comedy, which is ruined by some terrible sci-fi elements. Hark fares well in front of the camera, adding some welcome comical notes, but as a director, he is incapable of finding the right tone. Don't expect too much from Tony Leung either, in the end, I felt almost sorry for his involvement in this project. Not the worst, but hardly a film worth recommending.

Working Class

Da Gung Wong Dai
1985 / 98m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Drama, Romance
2.0*/5.0*
Working Class poster

After the success of the Aces Go Places franchise, Hark seemed quite comfortable doing some simpler comedy work. Considering the potential his earlier films showed that's a bit of a downer, but at least we now know he'd land back on his feet later on. Not that Working Class is a terrible film, it's just not all that distinctive. And with Hong Kong comedy being quite an acquired taste, it's also not too surprising this film is one of Hark's lesser-known works.

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Yan loves football and women, but keeping a girlfriend is tough when he can't even keep a job. Then he meets Amy, and he falls madly in love with her. So much that he vows to better his life. Amy doesn't dare tell him she comes from a wealthy family, as Yan hates the rich. The problem is that Yan's boss is actually Amy's father, and her little white lies are starting to catch up with her.

There's enough comedy talent present to make for a successful Hong Kong comedy, it's just that Hark's direction feels a bit lazy. The film is never as weird or quirky as it could've been, and the plot has been done so often before that it hardly held my interest. The light vibe and solid pacing salvage a little, but unless you're a big Hark or Hong Kong comedy fan, there's not much here.

Plain forgettable

King Of Chess

Kei Wong
1991 / 109m - Hong Kong
Drama
1.5*/5.0*
King Of Chess poster

A story split into two different parts. Not so much a story even, but two separate fragments which are taken out of the life of the main character. The setup of the film made zero sense to me, but maybe it's because I never felt a strong connection with the characters and the drama on display here. Hark Tsui and Ho Yim try for a more serious film, but it just doesn't work.

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Ching is an ad guy hired to boost the ratings of a television station. He finds a psychic kid and pitches him against a chess champion, but once the tournament is underway Ching starts to question the ethical implications of his actions. He is reminded of the time he met a legendary chess master in the 60s, during the Cultural Revolution.

The film is too silly to be taken seriously, but it's also way too dry and serious in its delivery. The two stories seen separately aren't too bad and they kept me engaged but combined they just didn't make any sense. The film lacks focus, proper dramatic performances, and a sensible structure. This is one of Hark's weaker efforts.

Big nopes

Black Mask 2: City of Masks

Hak Hap 2
2002 / 102m - Hong Kong
Sci-fi, Action
1.0*/5.0*
Black Mask 2: City of Masks poster

A complete disaster. I'm not sure what happened here, but Hark Tsui really made a mess of this sequel. Maybe it's because he tried to do a very Hong Kong-type film in America (instead of infusing his Hong Kong aesthetic in more American-type films), or he just didn't care enough about this project, but the result is pretty horrible and a big step down from the first film.

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The Black Mask is still around, his identity still hidden from the world. This time, he has to face an evil organization that is threatening to set off a bomb. Not any kind of explosive though, a DNA bomb that will turn all people into hideous mutants. To dismantle the bomb, he'll need to get by a group of mutated professional wrestlers.

Sure, the plot is incredibly silly, but it also holds more than enough potential for a fun and cheesy action flick. The abhorrent performances, poor action choreography (Yuen, what were you thinking), and cheap, campy presentation made this film a slog to sit through. This is without a doubt one of Hark's worst films.

The Big Heat

Seng Fat Dak Ging
1988 / 98m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
The Big Heat poster

A forgettable and poorly executed police procedural from the hands of the otherwise so-capable Johnnie To (and companions). I did find it pretty remarkable that two decades later To would build his signature upon the crime genre, clearly he needed a little more time (and an implosion of the local film industry) to get to that point.

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The plot is as generic as can be, but that's not at all uncommon for this type of film. Inspector Wong is ready to resign from the force when his longtime partner is suddenly found murdered. Wong assembles a team and starts an investigation, which leads to some very unexpected (but not really though) revelations.

I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, but with a proper cast and/or with some extended action scenes, these films can still be quite fun. There's none of that here. The styling is also completely rubbish and even though the film is on the shorter side, it hardly matters since most of it serves no purpose beyond simple genre filler. Disappointing.

The Master

Huang Fei Hong Jiu Er Zhi Long Xing Tian Xia
1992 / 88m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
The Master poster

An utter failure. With Hark behind the camera and Jet Li in front of it, and also taking the production year into account, this should've been at least pleasant and easy filler. But the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Apart from a half-decent finale, this is one of the biggest disappointments in Hark's entire oeuvre.

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Tak is an old kung-fu master who moved away to the US. A former student wants to kill Tak to prove to the world that he is the strongest fighter. Tak wants his best student to protect him, but he has never set foot outside of Hong Kong and when he finally makes it to the US, he has trouble getting used to the American way of life.

The US actors are laughable, and the fight choreographies are dull and uninspired. Even the finale feels like some mid-film fight sequence inserted to add a few minutes to the overall runtime (it's still the film's best scene, though). Hark's presentation is cheap and even Li appears defeated by the lack of quality in this production. For true Hark fanatics only, others shouldn't worry about skipping it.