The good stuff
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.
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.
A prime 90s martial arts classics. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.