films seen
70
average score
2.63*
nationality
Hong Kong - 61 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

Maverick director who spent his entire career challenging the rules and expectations of what Hong Kong cinema could be. Limited budgets often hampered his vision, but he always found ways to get his message across.

The good stuff

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake

by Herman Yau
Jian Hu Nu Xia Qiu Jin
2011 / 115m - China
Drama, Action
4.0*/5.0*
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake poster

Fans of Yau should expect a cleaner and less gritty adoption of his trademark style, other people should be aware that Woman Knight can be a bit more direct than other, more typical martial arts epics

Solid pieces

Shock Wave 2

by Herman Yau
Caak Daan Zyun Gaa Ji
2020 / 120m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Shock Wave 2 poster

Keeping track of Herman Yau's career has been pretty interesting. He moved up from directing sleazy underground flicks to second-line commercial and genre films, and now that the big Hong Kong giants moved to China he simply took their place. And with all that experience under his belt, he's been able to deliver pretty commendable blockbusters too.

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The first Shock Wave was a pretty solid bomb squad action thriller that did pretty well in theaters, so it's really no surprise that a sequel was on the way. Yau managed to secure an even bigger cast (Andy Lau is back, while Sean Lau and Ni Ni join the primary cast) and an even bigger budget to blow things up (even if just digitally).

The plot's a fraction better than your average blockbuster, thanks to Andy Lau's character who travels darker paths than usually the case, but once the finale gets closer the film folds back into a predictable good guy/bad guy structure and works up to a smashing finale, appropriate for this type of film. Good fun.

A Home with a View

by Herman Yau
Gaa Wo Maan Si Ging
2019 / 92m - Hong Kong
Comedy
3.5*/5.0*
A Home with a View poster

Yau's latest starts out as a pretty jolly farce, but turns pleasantly dark and grim towards the end. Familiarity with the Chinese sense of humour definitely helps, but the themes are universal enough to appeal to a more international crowd. A Home with a View is another striking Yau film that stops just short of being genius.

The White Storm 2: Drug Lords

by Herman Yau
So Duk 2: Tin Dei Duei Kuet
2019 / 99m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
The White Storm 2: Drug Lords poster

Fronted by Herman Yau and Andy Lau, two Hong Kong legends seemingly unfazed by their industry's struggles. White Storm 2 is a classic Hong Kong police action/thriller, an ultimate stand-off between a criminal turned philanthropist and his former gang boss. Solid, but nothing too out of the ordinary, apart from the exceptional car chase at the end. Good fun.

77 Heartbreaks

by Herman Yau
Yuen Loeng Taa 77 Chi
2017 / 97m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
77 Heartbreaks poster

Herman Yau made a name for himself directing raunchy and gritty Cat III films during the early 90s, but if you dig deeper into his oeuvre, you'll find a much broader range of films. It wasn't a big surprise then that 77 Heartbreaks turned out to be a contemporary romance with a nasty little bite, more akin to the Pang's Love trilogy and Heiwark Mak's Ex.

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After a 10-year relationship, Adam and Eve decide to split up. Eve is fed up with Adam's lack of responsibility and moves back to live with her mom. By chance, Adam finds Eve's diary, which holds 77 stories of instances when Adam messed up and Eve forgave him. Reading back, Adam realizes he didn't always treat Eve's love with the proper respect.

The performances are laudable (Pakho Chow in particular is a revelation), the romance feels realistic, and Yau bends genre clichés to great effect. Like most of his films, there is a stronger signature lacking to make this an actual masterpiece, but people who like romance with a little extra grit would do well to seek out this film. Very good.

Always Be with You

by Herman Yau
Seung Joi Nei Jor Yau
2017 / 98m - Hong Kong
Horror, Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Always Be with You poster

Herman Yau continues the Troublesome Night franchise under a different name. Not sure why they decided to switch up the branding, but you're getting three new short stories wrapped up in a slim and economic horror anthology. People familiar with the series will know what to expect, others get a nice entry point into one of Hong Kong longest standing horror franchises.

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Three unrelated people get mixed up in a fatal traffic accident. A drunk taxi driver, a man on the brink of tying the knot and a depressed woman all end up dead. Their funerals reunite the surviving family members, but the ghosts of the deceased aren't quite ready to leave the mortal world behind. And so they return to haunt the living.

The quality is there, what lacks is the spark to turn this into something truly notable. Performances are decent, the cinematography is polished enough, the shorts are amusing, but the film never really goes beyond. That's pretty much what most of Yau's oeuvre is like though. He's a great filler director, but he lacks that extra bit of class to make his films stand out.

Shock Wave

by Herman Yau
Caak Daan Jyun Ga
2017 / 119m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Shock Wave poster

With so many Hong Kong directors moving to China to earn a living, a big void was left where there used to be a slew of blockbuster releases. An ideal opportunity for Herman Yau to move up some ranks and get to work with bigger budgets and actors. And looking at Shock Wave, he is more than capable enough to pull it off.

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The film focuses on Cheung, a respected member of the bomb disposal squad. He infiltrates a gang and thwarts their evil plan. The leader of the gang escapes and disappears. Exactly one year later he returns and contacts Cheung. With his latest plan he manages to take the whole of Hong Kong hostage, it's up to Cheung to stop him.

Grand Hong Kong blockbuster action done well is always amusing. Andy Lau is the perfect good guy, Wen Jiang a lovely bad guy, the action scenes are pretty tense and the budget is put to good use. It's not a very remarkable film, but if you're looking for some expensive, well-made amusement then this film won't disappoint.

The Sleep Curse

by Herman Yau
Shi Mian
2017 / 102m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
The Sleep Curse poster

Herman Yau and Anthony Wong reunited. It would be stretching it to say both gentlemen have each other to thank for their careers, but films like Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome really made a big difference when they were still trying to get higher up the food chain. It's also pretty cool to see the two men return to the horror genre.

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A man suffering from sleep deprivation slowly turns into a veritable psychopath. His sister sees the danger and seeks the help of a sleep specialist. When he is taken in for a medical examination, the doctor begin to suspect there may be a supernatural cause for his symptoms. A vengeful spirit is supposedly keeping the man from falling asleep.

Yau is notorious for subverting genre clichés, or at least giving his endings a notable twist, and The Sleep Curse is a pretty fine example. The first 75 minutes or so are decent but somewhat predictable genre fare, after that both Yau and Wong crank up the intensity and horror, leaving me with my jaw on the floor. A fine recommend for those who appreciated their previous collaborations.

Nessun Dorma

by Herman Yau
Hung Sau Wan Mei Seui
2016 / 86m - Hong Kong
Mystery, Thriller
3.5*/5.0*
Nessun Dorma poster

Herman Yau loves a good genre mashup. The first half hour is a mix of horror, thriller and romance elements, making it tricky to predict where the film wants to go. After that, the mystery/thriller setup takes over and builds up to a finale that offers more than a handful of plot twists. Though it wouldn't be a true Yau film if he didn't have an extra surprise in store.

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Jasmine is in love with Fong, but he has no intention of marrying her. After a final attempt Jasmine decides she'll answer Vincent's proposal instead. On her way home, she is kidnapped, raped and held in containment before the criminal finally releases her again. She's too scared to tell her story, so Jasmine decides she'll just continue her life with Vincent.

The film has some overlap with more notorious Cat III work, but Yau makes sure to keep it classy. The cinematography is polished, the soundtrack stylish and the performances are laudable. The only thing that bugged me endlessly was the Monty Hill concept the film introduces. Trust me: save yourself a headache and don't try to understand it. Other than that, a very nice film.

The Mobfathers

by Herman Yau
Xuan Lao Ding
2016 / 94m - Hong Kong
Crime
3.5*/5.0*
The Mobfathers poster

Yau's take on a Triad election. It's a popular topic and with illustrious competitors (To's Election films in particular) you know it's not going to be easy for a film like this to stand out. It doesn't really do that either, but it is a prime recommend for people who simply can't get enough of Hong Kong crime cinema.

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When the godfather of a Triad organization finds out his health is deteriorating, and he only has one more year to live, he knows it is time to find a successor for his position. He appoints two men from his organization. It doesn't take long before the first gang members end up dead and wild speculations are doing the rounds.

Anthony Wong has a lot of fun playing the godfather, Philip King is the other standout in the cast. The action is quite bloody, the plot has a few welcome twists, and the crime elements are executed well. There's just nothing to really set it apart from so many other films in the genre. In other words, very good filler, but not a Hong Kong essential.

An Inspector Calls

by Raymond Bak-Ming Wong, Herman Yau
San Taam Ka To
2015 / 86m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action
3.5*/5.0*
An Inspector Calls poster

Herman Yau's take on the lunar comedy. It's a peculiar type of film, a slice of extreme Hong Kong comedy featuring a slew of famous actors and plenty of notable cameos. It's not his first try either, but it is one of the better ones. This film is for Hong Kong veterans though, better stay away if you have no idea what these lunar comedies are about.

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The plot is little more than an excuse for the comedy, if you're looking for a riveting whodunit better tone down your expectations. A wealthy family is prepping a birthday party, when a cop calls and notifies them of a girl's suicide. Nobody admits any involvement, but it's clear that not everyone is telling the truth.

An Inspector Calls is based on a film from the 50s, other than that I don't see any obvious link (and I have no clue why Yau wanted to remake this particular film). Koo is solid, Yau makes an effort to elevate the film, if ever so slightly, and there are a bunch of fun cameos. In the end, it's all about how resistant you are to this type of humor. I liked it quite a bit, but your mileage may vary.

Sara

by Herman Yau
Chor Gei
2014 / 95m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.5*/5.0*
Sara poster

Yau is one of the few Hong Kong directors who manage to combine more typical Hong Kong genre work with socially engaged dramas. Ten years earlier he already made a series of films focusing on prostitution issues, Sara is a new take on those same issues, this time zoning in on Thailand. The result is pretty laudable.

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Sara is a spirited journalist, but when she delivers a deep dive article that outs a lot of important political figures, her editor refuses to publish it in fear of retribution. Sara quits her job and moves to Thailand, where she meets Dok-my, a child prostitute. Sara is moved by her story and is willing to make a difference for the young girl.

It's nice to see Charlene Choi successfully rebranding herself, Simon Yam is his usual quality self. There's good chemistry between the two, and they handle the drama pretty well (not always a given with popular Hong Kong actors). The cinematography is pleasant, the message comes through loud and clear and the film isn't too preachy. A fine effort.

Ip Man: The Final Fight

by Herman Yau
Yip Man: Jung Gik Yat Jin
2013 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
Ip Man: The Final Fight poster

The second part in Yau's confusing Ip Man alternative. Clearly he figured Kar-Wai's take and the Wilson Yip films weren't quite enough, so he added two films of his own. While pretty fun genre fare, they do pale somewhat compared to the more prestigious projects of his peers. Confusing branding in the West certainly didn't help these films either (with many thinking they were part of Yip's series).

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After the war Ip Man is looking for an easy retirement, but he is about to face another big challenge. He is summoned to perform some routine martial arts demonstrations, but before he knows it he finds himself knee-deep into Triad business, and he has no alternative to take on a gang of dangerous criminals yet again.

If anything, this film gives you Anthony Wong battling it out with Eric Tsang, which is something I could never have dreamed up. The performances are decent, the martial arts scenes are solid and the somewhat shorter runtime a blessing. It's decent enough action filler, but it's difficult not to compare it to its illustrious predecessors, and Yau doesn't come out a winner.

Love Lifting

by Herman Yau
2012 / 92m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Love Lifting poster

A pretty typical Yau romance. From afar, it looks like a very straightforward genre film, but it comes with a twist that turns the whole film upside down. At least, for a short while, after which it merrily continues down its predestined genre path. Not sure if that structure is very effective or sensible, but it sure adds a bunch of intrigue to an otherwise rather basic film.

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Li Li is a talented weight lifter, but her sports career takes a big tumble when she is diagnosed with diabetes. She meets Shek, a divorced bar owner, and the two hook up right away. Shek sees Li Li still pines for the time she excelled doing what she loved, so he devises a plan to get her back into the weight lifting game.

Love Lifting is a solid piece of feel-good fluff. Whatever troubles are thrown at the characters are solved pretty much that very same scene, with Yau focusing hard on the romcom bits. The twist halfway through is a pretty big upset, but not one that carries through until the end. I was pretty baffled by this film, but I'm still not sure if it was for all the right reasons.

Nightmare

by Herman Yau
Qing Yan
2012 / 86m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
Nightmare poster

A very straightforward genre film from Yau. The pivot from horror to drama and mystery is a staple of the Asian horror niche, Yau is simply playing it by the numbers here. As long as you don't expect the world from this film, and you don't crave originality, Nightmare has plenty to offer, certainly for greedy and insatiable genre fans.

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Hao Dong suffers from sleep deprivation. While he's awake one night, he sees a woman living across the street being murdered in her apartment. When Dong goes to check on her, he finds an empty place and no sign of a corpse. His girlfriend tells him it's just a hallucination, but when it happens again Dong begins to suspect it's an old trauma rearing it's head.

Nightmare is built on mood. It's certainly not the scariest film you've ever seen, not the most surprising or memorable one either. But Yau's direction does feel very accomplished. The cinematography is polished, the soundtrack moody and the performances are on point. Very solid genre material in other words. I had plenty of fun with this one.

Turning Point: Laughing Gor Returns

by Herman Yau
Laughing Gor - Qian Zui Fan
2011 / 89m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Turning Point: Laughing Gor Returns poster

A fun sequel that revisits Yau's Laughing Gor character. The film fights an uphill battle against the work of Johnnie To and similarly talented Hong Kong directors, but if you're looking for prime genre filler than Yau's work will certainly prove very valuable. You probably won't find this film in anyone's best-of list, but it's still a highly amusing experience.

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Undercover cop Laughing ends up in prison for a lifelong sentence. There he meets Fok, a professor and trained psychologist who considers himself smart and slick enough to subvert the law. Both show interest in Chit, but if Laughing wants to get to him, he'll have to get past Fok first. And so a duel of wits begins.

Michael Tse, Chapman To and Francis Ng have a lot of fun with their characters, the film looks slick and is well-paced and even though the ending takes itself a bit too serious, there's not much time to get too worked up about it. A very nice Hong Kong police procedural with a little twist. Well recommend for anyone who can't get enough of these films.

The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

by Herman Yau
Yip Man Chinchyun
2010 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action
3.5*/5.0*
The Legend Is Born: Ip Man poster

Ten years ago, there was no lack of Yip Man films. Wilson Yip's trilogy stood out the most, Kar-Wai's film would target the arthouse market and Yau's films were there for genre fan who simply couldn't get enough of the legendary Wing Chun master. This first film handles Yip Man's early years (for those who didn't get that from the title).

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As a young man, Yip Man joins the Wing Chun school of Chan Wah-Shun. When he dies, Ng Chung-So takes over and finishes Man's education. In Hong Kong, Man finds a third master who further refines his skills, but this raises a conflict with Ng. In order to settle this conflict, Man is forced to take on his adopted brother, who carries with him a dark secret.

With Sammo Hung And Biao Yuen on board there's plenty of martial arts savvy, the action is solid, the performances are on point. The Legend is Born also looks polished enough, but it's impossible not to compare this to Wilson Yip's films, and then Yau comes up short. Nothing to be ashamed of, but make sure you watch the other Yip Man films first.

Rebellion

by Herman Yau
Tung Moon
2009 / 100m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Rebellion poster

Yau giving his version of the Triad crime thriller. It's a film that borrows heavily from Johnnie To's films, but Yau gives a simpler genre interpretation. All the usual genre traits are there, the only thing lacking is a true directorial signature. That makes it somewhat more forgettable, but also easier for a larger group of people to appreciate.

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Jimmy is a respected Triad boss, who has his trusted bodyguard Po to protect him. On the one night Po takes some time off, he gets stabbed and ends up in the hospital. With his direct successors unavailable, Jimmy's seat is given to Po. He cares nothing about the function, but others clearly do and Po becomes their target. To safe his life, he needs to find out who was behind the attack on his boss.

There are a lot of characters and a lot of changing dynamics. Even though the film feels quite chaotic, it's never too complex or difficult to follow. The performances are solid, with a standout role for Shawn Yue, and the short time span covered also plays to the film's advantage. An entertaining little genre flick.

The First 7th Night

by Herman Yau
Tau Chut
2009 / 100m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.5*/5.0*
The First 7th Night poster

Another Asian horror film that follows niche conventions. Don't expect excessive gore, high-string tension or original twists. The film serves a mystery with darker, supernatural elements and tries to do that to the best of its abilities. The result is an agreeable film that should obviously appeal to fans of contemporary Asian horror.

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Xiao calls a cab and asks the driver to get him to an abandoned hotel. He is a little surprised the driver knows the way, as the location is quite obscure. Thirty years ago a dramatic event burned the hotel down, the mystery was never cleared up. Xiao wants to get to the bottom of it once and for all, but it will be a dangerous mission.

With Hong Kong directors slowly moving to China, Yau saw an opportunity to direct genre films on slightly bigger budgets. He used them to hone his skills, but the films themselves are actually pretty entertaining too. The First 7th Night is nothing too special or memorable, but it is a fun and atmospheric mystery that neatly ticks all the genre boxes.

Turning Point

by Herman Yau
Laughing Gor Chi Bin Chit
2009 / 89m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
Turning Point poster

Introducing the undercover cop with the odd name: Laughing Gor. Yau was well into copying bigger and more respected names at this point in his career, but by fine-tuning the execution of his films and giving them just that little extra grit, he did manage to make them stand out. Maybe Turning Point isn't memorable cinema, but it sure is prime genre filler.

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Laughing has infiltrated the Triads, but another cop is on his trail, suspecting him of drug trafficking. Laughing will have to fend for himself as his mission is a complete secret, but when the cop starts to suspect Laughing is on an undercover mission, he isn't entirely convinced about Laughing's true intentions, suspecting him of double-crossing the police.

Anthony Wong is always a delight, Francis Ng proves once again that he is a versatile actor. Other than that, Turning Point is all about that crime/Triad goodness. Yau has the genre elements down to a 't, the actors know what's expected of them, and the plot keeps you guessing until the finale. Surely not the greatest film of its kind, but definitely good fun.

A Mob Story

by Herman Yau
Yan Tsoi Gong Wu
2007 / 86m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance, Crime
3.5*/5.0*
A Mob Story poster

Some genre films are instantly recognizable because of their trademark plot, other films make it even easier and go for a title that tells you all you need to know. A Mob Story is a typical Hong Kong crime flick, only a tad darker and a smidgen more dramatic. That's Yau's limited influence on the film, but unless you are aware of his signature, I doubt anyone would actively notice.

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Ah Chat is a seasoned contract killer. He started out when he was just seven years old and has been honing his skills ever since. Twenty years later he gets recognized on a mission, and he has to escape to Taiwan, where he knows a guy. There he bonds with a betel nut seller, but the booze and women drive a wedge between the friendship with his pal, and once again, Chat has to fear for his life.

This is another one of those films where Yau was able to gain experience and familiarize himself with the genre. The kills are a bit more brutal and some relations are a tad more developed, but it's really just a very basic genre film that's perfect for people who are looking for quality filler after completing the more accomplished films in this niche.

Cocktail

by Long Ching, Herman Yau
Boon Chui Yan Gaan
2006 / 90m - Hong Kong
Drama, Romance
3.5*/5.0*
Cocktail poster

Not unlike its American namesake. A more dramatic film that shows Yau is someone who can handle just about everything you throw at him. This certainly wasn't the most deep and/or personal drama I've ever seen, but some nice performances and a fun setting made this is into a slick and amusing film, which is a lot more than I expected going in.

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Fresh out of school, Paul starts to work in a cocktail bar. It quickly dawns on others that Paul can predict people's favorite drink with great accuracy, and he becomes somewhat of a cult figure, with people flocking to him. He has his own complexes to deal with, but through his conversations with the clientele he is able to work through them.

The setting is pretty sexy, the actors do a good job and the light drama is very pleasant. The quality of the film dips every time a little extra sentiment is inserted, but those moments are few and far between. This certainly isn't the most memorable Yau film, but if you want to see him do a decent drama, you can't really go wrong with this film.

The inoffensive

77 Heartwarmings

by Herman Yau
Gan Dong Ta 77 Ci
2021 / 94m - Hong Kong
Romance
3.0*/5.0*
77 Heartwarmings poster

A sequel to Yau's 77 Heartbreaks. Though a direct sequel plotwise, the vibe of this film was a bit different. A bit closer to your average romcom, with a slightly stronger focus on the comedy and more room for a happy ending. Though Yau still doesn't give the audience what they want from a film like this. Maybe that's for the inevitable third part.

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Pak-ho Chau and Charlene Choi return as Adam and Eve, a couple that separated after a 10-year relationship. Adam wants Eve back, but she isn't sure that he really became a different man. When Adam receives a link to a website that helps with wooing girls, he figures there's no harm in trying.

The comedy is pretty dreadful and the soundtrack is way too cheesy. Performances are decent (with Chau still being a stand-out) and the drama isn't that bad, the little twists at the end were appreciated too, but this did feel less distinct than the first film. Maybe he should give part 3 to someone who is a bit more skilled in doing a straight-forward romcom.

The New King of Comedy

by Stephen Chow, Herman Yau
Xin Xiju Zhi Wang
2019 / 91m - China
Comedy, Drama
3.0*/5.0*
The New King of Comedy poster

Chow and Yau return with a Mainland remake of Chow's own King of Comedy. The original isn't my favorite Chow and this remake doesn't improve on it. There are a few chuckles and it's clear Chow grew as a director, but in the process the silliness that set his work apart seems to have gone lost. Not bad, not great either.

The Leakers

by Herman Yau
Xie Mi Zhe
2018 / 103m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
The Leakers poster

Herman Yau went to Malaysia for this one. An outbreak film with crime elements that lashes out at the medical sector in typical Yau fashion. The genre elements aren't that convincing though and the production feels a little too slick at times, but overall it's an enjoyable and fun film.

All's Well, Ends Well 2010

by Raymond Bak-Ming Wong, Herman Yau
Fa Tin Hei Si 2010
2010 / 93m - Hong Kong
Comedy
3.0*/5.0*
All's Well, Ends Well 2010 poster

Herman Yau takes on the All's Well, Ends Well series. It's no doubt one of Hong Kong's most obtuse comedy franchises, and you need a manual (or a lot of cultural baggage) to make heads or tails of these films. There's also no good way to get acquainted with them, except tackle them head-on. Some familiarity with Hong Kong comedy is definitely appreciated though.

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There is a semblance of a plot here, but there is no reason to care too much about it. The plot is merely an excuse to introduce a slew of cameos and have some sketch-like fun. The story about a princess sent out to learn the tricks of the trade is completely inconsequential, so I'm not even going to bother with it any further.

There are many notable cameos, the comedy is cheesy but varied, the effects aren't all that bad and the pacing is positively zany. Yau struggles a little with the project's commercial scope and relies a bit too heavily on his B-film past, but if you're looking for quality film making you won't find it here anyway. Silly but solid fun, like most of these films.

Chaos

by Herman Yau
Saam Bat Gun
2008 / 91m - Hong Kong
Action, Thriller
3.0*/5.0*
Chaos poster

An interesting little genre film, that manages to surprise for an hour or so. After that the energy starts to seep out of the film and Yau struggles to keep things engaging, but as this type of film is relatively uncommon for Hong Kong, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. This deserves a remake with a bigger budget.

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A cop apprehends a thief. On their way to the station they end up on Crow's land. Crow and his gang take the two men hostage, suspecting that one of them is a cop. Unsure of their identities, he decides to execute them both. But then one of his gang members steps forward, claiming to know a way out of his conundrum.

With very little Yau succeeds in creating a pretty tight and claustrophobic post-apocalyptic setting. The actors do a decent job, the CG is good enough and the plot is intriguing. The lack of budget ultimately fails the film as Yau is not the man to keep on innovating on a shoestring budget, but if you're looking for something slightly different, this is certainly worth a shot.

Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic

by Herman Yau
2007 / 97m - Hong Kong
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic poster

A fun mix of gritty horror with a police procedural. Hong Kong is the ideal place to produce such a film, Herman Yau the perfect man for the job. It's no surprise then that this film turned out to be an amusing little genre effort. Not quite refined enough to be a true classic, but certainly good enough for hungry genre fans.

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A serial killer is on the loose, and he's going after cops. He doesn't just kill them either, instead, he uses ancient Oriental voodoo rituals to get rid of the policemen. Rockman, a hardened cop, is put on the case. He suspects that Lam Chiu is behind the killings, a criminal Rockman once shot through the head and left without feeling.

No ghosts here, which is somewhat of a relief. Yau is perfect for a bit of nasty voodoo horror, and Lam Suet is always a joy to watch. Gong Tau is perfect B-filler, but the extra drama feels a bit unnecessary, and this was made when Yau's work wasn't quite as polished as it is today. I had a lot of fun with it, but great cinema this is not.

Whispers and Moans

by Herman Yau
Sing Kung Chok Tse Sup Yut Tam
2007 / 96m - Hong Kong
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
Whispers and Moans poster

Throughout his career, Herman Yau has always found time to highlight some of Hong Kong's seedier social issues. What may be an arthouse staple in other countries is a rarity in Hong Kong, so it's probably no surprise that it was left up to the more atypical genre directors to take up the gauntlet. Whispers and Moans is a perfect example.

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Don't be misled (or tempted) by the film's Cat III rating, this is a straightforward drama set in an oldskool Hong Kong bordello. Yau follows the lives of the people involved, from prostitutes and social workers, to the two women who run the business. There isn't too much added drama, instead the film offers a closer look at the characters' daily trials and tribulations.

It's nice to see a film like this without all the added drama (the ending excluded). It gives the film a more realistic feel, and it gives the actual message a little extra weight. The performances are decent, the styling proper but somewhat unremarkable. I'm not sure if Yau is the ideal guy for a film like this, but as nobody else is making them over there, it's a fine addition to his oeuvre.

On the Edge

by Herman Yau
Hak Bak Do
2006 / 88m - Hong Kong
Drama, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
On the Edge poster

Simple genre filler, that lacks the edge (pun) usually present in Herman Yau's oeuvre. It's a very straightforward Triad crime flick, with some very familiar names taking on roles they've played countless times before. It's certainly good enough if you're craving a bit of Hong Kong Triad action, but that's about all you can expect from it.

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Harry Sin has been an undercover cop for 8 years straight. When his operation finally comes to an end, the major bosses of the Triad gang he infiltrated are apprehended and Harry can go back to his normal life. After so much time living and working in the criminal underworld, the switch is quite a bit harder than Harry imagined.

The 00s were a transitional decade for Yau. He transformed from a dedicated, edgy B-film director to someone who could also do bigger, more commercial genre projects. Like most Hong Kong directors, Yau learned the tricks of the trade on the job, and so he made quite a few decent but unremarkable genre films to get the hang of them. On the Edge is one of those films. Solid, but forgettable filler.

The Ghost Inside

by Herman Yau
Yi Shen Yi Gui
2005 / 100m - China
Horror
3.0*/5.0*
The Ghost Inside poster

Domestic abuse turned into a classic Asian horror film. It's not surprising to see Yau add a socially relevant undertone to his film, but when all is said and done this is pretty standard Asian horror fare, long-haired ghosts and dramatic bits included. Fifteen years later, it's really hard for a film like this to stand out.

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Lin flees from her abusive husband, together with her daughter. She finds a pretty spacious apartment for a low price and is certain luck is finally on her side. Soon after, she finds her daughter talking to herself and Lin begins to suspect her flat is haunted. When a woman appears before her at night, she'll have to fight to keep her daughter alive.

The cinematography and score are moody and there are some pretty effective scares. But it's nothing you haven't seen before and there are many films who've executed the exact same material a lot better. It's decent filler for people who can't get enough of these films, but it's hardly a stand-out.

Adventurous Treasure Island

by Sau Hin Ha, Herman Yau
Huang Jin Dao Li Xian Ji
1996 / 92m - Taiwan
Comedy, Fantasy
3.0*/5.0*
Adventurous Treasure Island poster

Madcap Hong Kong comedy. It's hardly coherent and flashes by in record speed, but that's actually a selling point for this kind of film. The acting is pretty poor and the film feels rushed, but there's so much craziness here that it hardly matters. Recommended for seasoned HK comedy fans only, but a neat little discovery if you're part of that niche.

Ebola Syndrome

by Herman Yau
Yi Boh Lai Beng Duk
1996 / 98m - Hong Kong
Horror, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Ebola Syndrome poster

No doubt a career maker for both Herman Yau and Anthony Wong. Ebola Syndrome is not a good film, but it is pretty hilarious and there are some unforgettable moments that greatly increase the film's cult appeal. I wouldn't recommend this to just anybody, but if you like yourself some excessive trash, this one won't disappoint.

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Anthony Wong plays one of the vilest and most disagreeable characters ever. He is a cook who doesn't care too much about anything. After a dispute with his bosses he murders them and flees to South-Africa. After raping a girl there he gets infected with the Ebola virus. There is no cure for him, so all he can do is infect as many others as possible.

I wouldn't call Wong's performance great, but he is insanely memorable, and he really commits to his role. The film looks and sounds pretty terrible, the plot is nonsensical and Yau makes some very odd choices (like the mid-film safari), but ultimately these just add to the fun. If you want to know where Yau/Wong got their reputation from, just watch this film.

War of the Underworld

by Herman Yau
Xong Xing Zi: Zhi Jiang Hu Da Feng Bao
1996 / 97m - Hong Kong
Drama, Action
3.0*/5.0*
War of the Underworld poster

A solid Young & Dangerous spin-off, one of the series that rekindled the Hong Kong movie industry during the mid-90s. Andrew Lau couldn't direct every single film in the franchise, and so Herman Yau was given a spin-off to flesh out some characters (and let's be honest, make an extra buck). With Tony Leung and Jordan Chan headlining the film, Yau's work was probably pretty easy.

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Siu-Chun is a small-time crook in a local Triad gang. He has a big mouth, but isn't so badass when he needs to fight against other gangs. All that changes when he bumps into Hong Fei, who used to be one of the big bosses of the famous Hung Hing group. He takes Siu-Chun as his pupil and shows him the ropes when old Hung Hing enemies pop up.

The chemistry between Jordan Chan and Tony Leung is great, apart from that this is a pretty typical Young and Dangerous film. Lots of street fights, loudmouth characters and Triad conflicts. Yau fares pretty well, but his input is pretty limited. He simply sticks to the familiar formula and delivers a film that is sure to please fans of the franchise.

The Untold Story

by Danny Lee, Herman Yau
Bat Sin Fan Dim Ji Yan Yuk Cha Siu Bau
1993 / 96m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
The Untold Story poster

The other Wong/Yau collaboration that helped define the careers of both artists. It's another rancid Cat III film with Anthony Wong as one of the dirtiest bad guys in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Though he would take on more respectable roles later on in his career, nobody is able to beat Wong at playing complete dirt bags. And no better illustration than The Untold Story.

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Based on a true story, Wong plays a nefarious butcher who serves human meat in his restaurant. When the cops find discarded body parts in the river, they manage to trace it back to his restaurant. They begin to suspect the owner of stalking and murdering his victims only to make a few extra bucks by saving on buying pork meat.

It's a perfect setup for a Wong/Yau collaboration and the two have lots of fun with the material. Wong's character is utterly unlikable, Yau seeks out every opportunity to gross out his audience. The technical qualities are pretty limited and the police procedural elements can get in the way, but it's one of those films you simply have to see once in your life.

Worthy but flawed

The Second Coming

by Tin Chi Ng, Herman Yau
Zong Sheng
2014 / 88m - Hong Kong
Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
The Second Coming poster

Not the worst Hong Kong horror film you'll ever see, but certainly not the most memorable either. You may wonder if this wasn't just a random vehicle to sell the 3D gimmick, and good luck trying to make a case in defense of The Second Coming. At least Yau adheres to a baseline quality that keeps things watchable.

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When Lucy discovers a little pot buried in the ground, her life is about to change forever. When she opens the pot an insect crawls out, from that moment on Lucy starts getting visions and a ghost starts haunting her. Her parents believe the sudden troubles are related to a past secret they have kept hidden from Lucy.

Because it's Yau there are some nasty scenes that do hit home, but like many other Asian horror films, The Second Coming doesn't build up to a crescendo. Instead, the finale turns more dramatic and spends a lot of time explaining the drama that lies at the core of the hauntings. The CG and performances aren't that great either, which leaves you with a film that starts well enough, but slowly fades away.

True Women for Sale

by Herman Yau
Sing Kung Chok Tse Yee: Ngor But Mai Sun, Ngor Mai Chi Gung
2008 / 90m - Hong Kong
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
True Women for Sale poster

Another one of Yau's films that dives in the Hong Kong prostitution world, looking to offer a somewhat more realistic take on what happens in this often neglected world/industry. It's nice to see someone in the Hong Kong film industry tackling this subject, but Yau isn't really the right kind of director to do justice to the characters and the drama.

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The film follows two young women who decide that prostitution is the best and easiest way for them to make money. They go to work in the Sham Shui Po district, which is famous for their sex workers. One girl is a drug addict and hopes to finance her addiction, the other a pregnant Chinese woman who is looking for a higher living standard for her and her soon-to-be-born child.

Hong Kong is capable of doing a drama like this right, but then you need the right director and cast. The lead actresses aren't that great, Anthony Wong feels a little off, and Yau's direction comes up short when doing a straightforward drama like this. It's not a terrible film, but it doesn't really live up to its full potential.

Shark Busters

by Herman Yau
Baan Sau Chuk Dak Hin Dui
2002 / 96m - Hong Kong
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
Shark Busters poster

Herman Yau, forever making genre films with a social conscience. While in many ways a typical Hong Kong police flick, Yau weaves in poor post-handover conditions and the severe effects on the underpaid police force. Sadly production values are subpar, but there are some interesting bits and pieces here.

From the Queen to the Chief Executive

by Herman Yau
Dung Hau Tung Kin Wah Fat Lok
2001 / 102m - Hong Kong
Drama
2.5*/5.0*
From the Queen to the Chief Executive poster

One of Yau's lesser known films, no doubt because it's one of his more political works. Yau has always dabbled in different niches. Most will know him for his schlocky horror work, others will remember his blockbusters, but in his most notable films (not his best mind) he tackles socials issues head on. A rarity in Hong Kong cinema.

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Young offenders are sent to prison and are locked up under a special order. There is no immediate sentence, and sometimes they are just held indefinitely, with no prospect of ever coming out. A young lawyer makes it her life's work to fight for these kids, hoping she can change these barbaric laws.

You can feel Yau really cares about the topic, it's equally clear that the Hong Kong film industry wasn't very willing to spend a lot of money on a film like this. The performances are mediocre, and the cinematography is cheap, luckily Yau knows how to deal with that and still delivers a decent film.

Killing End

by Herman Yau
Sha Ke
2001 / 90m - Hong Kong
Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Killing End poster

A pretty basic Hong Kong crime flick. It's mostly a genre exercise for Herman Yau, a little filler to bridge the gap between bigger projects. It's not a terrible film and in places you see Yau's talent shining through, but you won't miss much if you skip this one, as there are a million films just like it.

The Masked Prosecutor

by Herman Yau
Ye Cha
1999 / 94m - Hong Kong
Drama, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
The Masked Prosecutor poster

A Hong Kong superhero flick that never truly feels like one. It's from the late 90s (one of Hong Kong's more tragic cinematic eras), so that shouldn't come as too big of a surprise. A sprawling blockbuster and/or Marvel-killer this is not, still Yau finds ways to keep things entertaining, and fans of his oeuvre probably won't be too disappointed.

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A masked hero is roaming through the streets of Hong Kong. He is out to catch the bad guys, no matter what their crime is. He beats them to a pulp and delivers them to the police station. The police are quite happy with the extra help, but since the actions of the masked hero aren't exactly legal, they are forced to track him down.

A film like this needs a big budget, which simply wasn't there. The film looks pretty cheap, the soundtrack is dreadful, even the performances aren't all that great. That last bit's a tad more surprising, as actors like Louis Koo and Jordan Chan are capable of doing better, even on a budget. But it is quite entertaining, and Yau makes sure he doesn't take thing too seriously. Decent filler.

The Untold Story III

by Herman Yau
Sei Yan Bong Ji Chin Lut Gau Sai
1999 / 91m - Hong Kong
Thriller, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
The Untold Story III poster

Fans of the original Untold Story shouldn't get too excited. This is a pretty basic sequel that leaves the overt pulp element behind and tries to deliver a more straightforward genre film. The result is a film with slightly broader appeal, though it's not half as distinct or fun as the original. Something for true Herman Yau completists only.

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When Ma goes missing, the police doesn't spend too much time on his disappearance. After he has been gone for 2 whole month they are forced to take action, but they don't have many leads. Until a guy turns himself in and confesses the murder on Ma. The only problem is that he has no hard evidence to back up his claims.

The film offers a mix of comedy, thriller and crime elements, but the shift between them isn't very subtle. It takes a long time before Yau breaks out the more gruesome scenes, it just isn't going to be enough to please anyone coming here for the gory bits. The backstory is pretty amusing, though that's hardly the main selling point here.

Troublesome Night 6

by Herman Yau
Yam Yeung Lo 6: Hung Chow Hon
1999 / 86m - Hong Kong
Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 6 poster

Herman Yau's sixth and final entry in the franchise, though it would go on for many more episodes (there's 19 in total). It's a bit odd because this 6th part does feel like a small but meaningful departure from the ones that came before. Either Yau's new direction wasn't appreciated by the fans, or Yau was simply done with it.

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Where the first few films felt more like anthologies connected by only a tiny sliver of plot, this sixth instalment plays more like a straightforward narrative, broken down in chapters that aren't as clearly separated. It's also a much more serious film compared to the earlier ones, which suffered from bad acting and a complete failure to be scary.

Louis Koo is still around and takes up the lead, though his character is pretty basic, and he doesn't have much to work with. The color palette is moody, the soundtrack quite effective and there are a few memorable horror moments. While a clear upgrade from episodes 3 to 5, part 6 still struggles to impress as a real horror flick. It's decent filler, but nothing more.

Troublesome Night

by Wai-Man Cheng, Long-Cheung Tam, Herman Yau
Yin Yeung Lo
1997 / 98m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
2.5*/5.0*
Troublesome Night poster

The very beginning of the infamous Troublesome Night series. While a little better than expected, that particular blend of Hong Kong horror and comedy never really did it for me. The presentation is decent enough, it just never becomes scary nor funny. Not for me, but clearly local audiences thought differently.

Troublesome Night 2

by Herman Yau
Yin Yeung Lo 2: Ngo Joi Nei Joh Yau
1997 / 96m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror, Thriller
2.5*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 2 poster

Herman Yau took over as director and turned this into one of Hong Kong's swiftest horror franchises. This second film keeps to the same formula, three loosely linked short films that combine horror and comedy, with the same perks and caveats as the other (early) entries. Not great but passable fun.

City Cop

by Herman Yau
Gong Pu II
1995 / 99m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
2.5*/5.0*
City Cop poster

A film with a terribly generic title, the execution is just as basic. Herman Yau takes on the buddy cop niche and does so with the necessary flair, but this sequel to Danny Lee's first film lacks a decent budget and/or inspired creatives to turn it into something more than average genre filler. Genre fans won't mind too much.

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Chow is a young, talented cop who can't wait to make the world a better place. He is also quite reckless, and the Hong Kong underground is a dangerous place. In order to help him, he is coupled with a more experienced cop, but when the two are sent after some jewelry robbers, the situation still spirals out of control.

The leads aren't too charismatic, the formula offers nothing new and Yau isn't the greatest director, but once the film finds its groove and dives into the Hong Kong nightlife, it gets pretty entertaining. City Cop is self-aware shelf filler material, but it's certainly not the worst of its kind. Perfect for when you've seen all the bigger names in the genre.

Fearless Match

by Herman Yau
Chu Sheng Zhi Du
1994 / 91m - Hong Kong
Crime
2.5*/5.0*
Fearless Match poster

An early Herman Yau flick, where he was getting himself acquainted with the police procedural, a staple of Hong Kong genre cinema. That means you shouldn't expect the world from this one, Fearless Match is a fairly straightforward film that sticks to the rules of the genre and merely aims to please those who come here for the niche appeal.

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The film follows two rookie cops who manage to impress their superiors, which earns them a promotion. As CID detectives, they have a lot more to prove, and navigating the streets turns out to be a lot trickier than expected. Especially when they get into a feud with a local gang, which puts them, their superiors and their friends in danger.

Fearless Match is simple genre fodder, and having seen a boatload of similar films can surely take the edge off of it. It's not a terrible film, and those with an interest in Yau's work will certainly find something to like. Tony Leung Ka-Fai's part is pretty memorable for one. Pretty decent, just not a film that will leave a strong impression.

No More Love No More Death

by Taylor Wong, Herman Yau
Tai Zi Chuan Shuo
1993 / 89m - Hong Kong
Crime
2.5*/5.0*
No More Love No More Death poster

A pretty mediocre Yau/Wong collaboration. This sounded fun on paper, the reality turned out a little different. The action scenes are decent enough, though they are far from industry bests. The problem lies with the drama and romance, which are pretty ineffective and get in the way of the entertainment. It's neither Yau nor Wong's forte.

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Prince has been trained to become a contract killer from a very young age. His dad is his teacher, with the help of his son he wants to get rid or his arch enemy once and for all. But Prince falls in love with a girl and when he finds out his dad isn't really the man he claimed to be, he has to make some tough decisions about his future.

Jacky Cheung isn't too bad and Yau/Wong do nail the action scenes, though people expecting their usual grit might be a bit disappointed. This felt more like a little experiment for the two directors to cover more commercial ground. The result isn't terrible, but unless you love these types of films, it's hard to actively recommend.

Dubious filler

Astonishing

by Herman Yau
Jing Xin Dong Po
2004 / 88m - Hong Kong
Mystery, Thriller
2.0*/5.0*
Astonishing poster

Herman Yau is a capable director, but the man needs a budget to thrive. Let him nickle and dime a mindfuck film like Astonishing, and the result is pretty poor. The plot sounded promising enough, sadly, the film lacks atmosphere and some half-decent performances to succeed. The result is little more than filler for only the biggest Yau completists.

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When Mandy celebrates her wedding anniversary, she falls asleep in the middle of her party. When she wakes up, everyone is gone, and on the way home her cab is involved in a traffic incident. Mandy regains consciousness in the hospital 10 days later. She doesn't recognize anybody, and everyone calls her Fiona.

The setup is more than sufficient, but Yau really struggles to make an impact. The cinematography is dull, the soundtrack is underused and the film is terribly predictable. It's not a very long one and the pacing is okay, I'm certain a modern-day Yau would do much better with the same premise, but back then this type of film simply wasn't for him.

Dating Death

by Herman Yau
Sut Ging Mo Sun
2004 / 87m - Hong Kong
Horror, Thriller
2.0*/5.0*
Dating Death poster

A throwaway horror project. I'm not sure who exactly this film was intended for. I can't imagine it did well in Hong Kong, it's not really the kind of horror the international scene was craving at the time either. It's just another one of Yau's attempts to get better at a specific niche, it seems. In that sense it's decent enough, but only for his biggest supporters.

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Seven friends get together for a little vacation. They've rented a house on a remote little island, but they soon realize that something else brought them there. When they start dying one by one, the survivors try to get away from the island as quickly as possible. That's not an easy thing to do when the killer hides amongst your best friends.

Like most of Yau's poorer films, the core problem is budget. Though it's obvious he made an actual effort here, the bland special effects, the lack of gore/tension and the subpar performances all stand in the way of enjoying this pretty generic horror affair. Not the worst of its kind, but far from great.

Herbal Tea

by Herman Yau
Laam Seung Lui Gwong
2004 / 93m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
2.0*/5.0*
Herbal Tea poster

Very simplistic romantic comedy by Herman Yau. Jordan Chan isn't the lead that has the kind of flair needed to pull this off, Yau isn't exactly known for doing romcoms. There are some redeeming moments and the ending is decent, but overall it's a disappointment.

Happy Family

by Herman Yau
Fung Lau Ga Chuk
2002 / 100m - Hong Kong
Comedy
2.0*/5.0*
Happy Family poster

A mediocre comedy from Herman Yau. The early '00s weren't Yau's best period and it shows. Happy Family is a basic comedy that just hobbles along without ever making a worthwhile impression. It lacks Yau's typical edge and comes off as commercial filler in between more challenging projects.

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The lead actors do a decent job, but the rest of the cast is well below par. Loudness and overacting are often confused for comedy, the soundtrack feels like a complete afterthought and the cinematography is plain and uninteresting. If you ever wondered what Hong Kong filler looks like, look no further.

The plot itself is slightly amusing though. It's not great, but at least it kept my attention until the end of the film. It's definitely not enough to actively recommend Happy Family, but I've sat through worse films. At least it's short and mildly amusing, at the same time it's also wildly plain and forgettable.

Nightmares in Precinct 7

by Herman Yau
Qi Hao Cha Guan
2001 / 115m - Hong Kong
Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Nightmares in Precinct 7 poster

More generic horror fodder from Herman Yau. He isn't really the man to do straight-up ghost horror stories, combining it with police procedural elements doesn't seem to improve things much either. The result is a forgettable genre flick that will only appeal to the most ardent Asian horror fans. And dedicated completists.

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When Jing is hit by a bullet that goes straight through his head, he ends up in a coma. Two years later he awakes out of the blue, with a sixth sense that allows him to communicate with ghosts. Together with the nurse who took care of him all these years, he will use his newfound skills to solve a case that has been plaguing the hospital for quite some time.

The start of the film is overly dramatic, the horror elements feel quit uninspired when they finally arrive and mediocre performances hold the film back even further. It's one of those films that comes off as simple shelf filler, made to seduce genre fans with a nice cover and a flashy quote. Difficult to recommend, unless you really crave some Hong Kong horror.

Fascination Amour

by Herman Yau
Ai Qing Meng Huan Hao
1999 / 95m - Hong Kong
Romance
2.0*/5.0*
Fascination Amour poster

Yau is best known for his gritty horror films, but he also tried his hand at the romcom genre a couple of times. Seeing this is a late-90s Hong Kong project, you would do well to keep your expectations low. It's very generic genre fare that tries to survive on Andy Lau's charms. And that it does, but that's also the only thing it does.

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After seven failed engagements, Alfred's mother is tired of her son's bad judgment. She finds him a wife and sends the two of them on a luxury cruise. They don't really get along that well, but Alfred decides to power through. Until he meets Sandy, a girl of poor descent.

Andy Lau aces his part, the rest of the cast isn't nearly as good. The wealthy background of the lead allows Yau to play with expensive locations and excessive displays of romance, but the underlying emotions are flat, and I didn't really end up caring for the core romance. Not great, then again, I think few people would expect it to be.

Walk In

by Herman Yau
Duo She
1997 / 101m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Walk In poster

A somewhat crazy mix of genres. This film combines pretty much all genres Yau had been active in at that point in his career. The setup is taken right out of a horror film, the execution is light and breezy, and in between there are plenty of typical action and crime moments. Sadly, these genre switches work mostly against the film.

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Chicken is a petty criminal who is hired as the getaway driver for a heist. On his first job things go terribly wrong and Chicken ends up in a coma, while Tommy, the cop who caught him, is paralyzed for life. Tommy hears of a ritual to take over someone else's body, his plan is to get rid of Chicken and claim his body instead.

Would Yau make this film today, it would no doubt be a lot better. Back in the late 90s, with the Hong Kong movie industry in shambles and budgets barely covering the costs of a bare-bones film, there was no way a film like this was going to turn out well in Yau's hands. Fans of Hong Kong genre benders might get something out of it, others can safely skip this one.

Highway Man

by Herman Yau
Ma Lu Ying Xiong II: Fei Fa Sai Che
1995 / 92m - Hong Kong
Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Highway Man poster

Well before the Fast & Furious films got big, Asia had its own little street race hype. There are no doubt better films in the genre, but since the hype was somewhat short-lived a film like this can probably scratch a certain itch for fans of the genre. Yau doesn't really ace any of the important parts, but it's not a total disaster either.

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Chiu is a respected street racer. When he bumps into Lion King things get a little tense. A race between the two will have to decide who is the better man. Also on the line: 10.000 dollars and Carman. She is the real reason Chiu wants to race. He wins the bet, but Lion King isn't going to yield that easily.

Don't worry too much about the fact that this is a sequel. I hadn't seen the first film either, but these films are so generic that it doesn't really matter. The races are decent (though never very realistic), the plot is predictable, the performances not quite there. I had a decent amount of fun with Highway Man, but good cinema it is not.

Cop Image

by Herman Yau
Meng Chai Ren
1994 / 104m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Action, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Cop Image poster

A lesser collaboration between Yau and Wong. Anthony Wong plays the good guy here, which isn't how I like to see him in a Herman Yau film. It's not that he can't handle the part (he is in fact one of the highlights of the film), it's just that he shines brighter in more degenerate roles. There's none of that here, this is one of Yau's lighter action/crime films.

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Sing is a simple traffic cop. He is a major fan of American action films and hopes to become just as brave as his big screen heroes. By chance, he one day notices a bank heist in progress, so he makes sure to involve himself. It doesn't take too long before Sing realizes real life isn't like the movies, but by then he's already knee-deep in the case.

Wong is decent, and the action scenes are pretty fun. There are some successful jokes too, but the film feels too cheap and rushed to leave a big impression. The Hong Kong movie industry crumbled quickly in the mid 90s and Image Cop is one of those films where the decay was already visible. Somewhat decent filler for genre fans, but nothing more.

Taxi Hunter

by Herman Yau
Di Shi Pan Guan
1993 / 89m - Hong Kong
Drama, Thriller, Crime
2.0*/5.0*
Taxi Hunter poster

I expected quite a bit from Taxi Hunter. Collaborations between Yau and Wong are usually pretty explosive, especially when Wong is allowed to play a trippy character. All those requirements are met here, but the film still ends up a little underwhelming. It's not their worst film together, but it's difficult to not be a little disappointed with the result.

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Wong plays a sweet and caring businessman. He has a family which he loves dearly. His life is turned upside down when a careless taxi driver hits his pregnant wife, leaving Wong to fend for himself. When he hears about another incident with a cab driver, he figures it's time to teach them a lesson. He gets a little crazy and goes on a murderous rampage.

Wong's performance is nice, comedy fans will also be interested to see Man-tat Ng in a very memorable role. All the ingredient were there to make this a memorable little genre flick, but it's just not as crazy or out there as it could've been. Yau fans should definitely give this film a shot, it's just that I expected more.

Plain forgettable

Kung Fu Angels

by Herman Yau
Cing Ceon Dau
2014 / 87m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Kung Fu Angels poster

Yau is a pretty interesting director, but sometimes I wonder why he even bothers. He stands out when he is allowed to be a bit different from the norm. When he is forced to stick to clear genre conventions and isn't granted a decent budget to invest, the quality of his work takes a dive real fast. Kung Fu Angels is such a film.

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Nancy shows a lot of promise playing volleyball. She enlists in a prestigious sports college, hoping to break into the big leagues. At first, she doesn't feel at home, but then she runs into Tom. His good looks and dashing personality convince Nancy to continue, but she isn't the only one who wants to hook up with Tom.

The plot is incredibly bland, the performances are weak and Yau's signature is completely absent. It's the simplest genre fodder you can imagine, and that just highlights Yau's weaknesses. The film is pretty short and the pacing is decent, which keeps it from scoring even worse, but I wouldn't recommend this unless you really love sporty romcoms.

Split Second Murders

by Herman Yau
Sei Sung Saw Liu
2009 / 90m - Hong Kong
Comedy
1.5*/5.0*
Split Second Murders poster

I actually looked forward to this film, on paper it sounded pretty interesting and Yau has the capacity to be a talented director. There was no lack of potential here, but the result felt drab and uninspired, a filler project for Yau to keep himself busy in between other projects. A different director might have done better with it.

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Luk is a talented comic book artist, but he's not having too much success with his work. His editor suggests more action and death, but Luk doesn't feel comfortable writing about these subjects. To meet them in the middle, he starts looking around for interesting conflicts and imagines how they could have fatal outcomes.

This film could've been a nice and entertaining mix of comedy and horror, but it doesn't succeed in either genre. The performances are terrible, the horror elements are spineless, and the comedy isn't too successful either. I'm not really sure what motivated Yau to make this film, but it's pretty clear that his heart wasn't really in it.

PaPa Loves You

by Herman Yau
Ze Go Ah Ba Zan Bau Za
2004 / 99m - Hong Kong
Comedy
1.5*/5.0*
PaPa Loves You poster

Straight-up Hong Kong comedy isn't really Yau's strong point. All the elements were here to turn this into fun little genre filler, but the somewhat aimless direction and poor balance of genre elements makes this is a needlessly confusing and ultimately uninteresting film. Maybe not too surprising, as it was made in one of Yau's lesser periods.

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Ying is a single parent who struggles to raise his teen daughter Ellen. She doesn't respect her dad no matter what he tries. Things get worse for Ying when he swaps bodies with a famous gangster. He turns out to be way more popular with Ellen and her classmates, while Ying gets a couple of vengeful criminals on his tail.

With actors like Tony Leung, Charlene Choi and Eric Tsang around, it should've been possible to turn this into a funny comedy, but the jokes are lame, the actors underperform, the added crime and drama elements feel out of place and the styling is cheap and uninviting. This is one for Yau completists only, one of the lesser films in his oeuvre.

Give Them A Chance

by Herman Yau
Gei Ta Men Yi Ge Ji Hui
2003 / 98m - Hong Kong
Drama, Sport
1.5*/5.0*
Give Them A Chance poster

Herman Yau does Step Up before Step Up existed. Film about a bunch of street kids that get their once of a lifetime chance as a dance group. The drama is poor and the final dance routine is boring. For from Yau's best work, though you have to applaud him for doing something different.

All of a Sudden

by Herman Yau
Jing Bian
1996 / 97m - Hong Kong
Romance, Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
All of a Sudden poster

A 90s thriller. It may be coming out of Hong Kong, but it reminded me a lot of the American thrillers of that era. It's a genre that hasn't aged too well, and Yau doesn't really do anything notable with it. The result is a plain and forgettable film that simply goes through the motions, but fails to engage at any point.

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Tsui's wife is found dead. The police assumes a suicide, but Tsui suspects a rich businessman who supposedly had an affair with his wife. Tsui wants revenge and kidnaps the mistress of the businessman. Things get more complicated when Tsui starts an affair with her, and they come up with a scheme to run off with the money together.

It's a simple enough setup, with some obvious twists in the second part. Half-hearted attempts to keep the plot interesting, nothing more. The performances aren't great, Yau's direction is disappointing, and the film lacks the usual Hong Kong genre slickness. You're probably better off watching the American counterparts, at least they had bigger budgets.

Best of the Best

by Herman Yau
Fei Hu Jing Ying Zhi Ren Jian You Qing
1992 / 96m - Hong Kong
Romance, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Best of the Best poster

Not a very good film, but it is an interesting one. It's a precursor to the crime films of Andrew Lau and Johnnie To, with a slightly grittier ending, but none of the genre flair that makes the latter films so much fun. It's one of Yau's earliest features, and it's obvious that he still had a lot to learn, but if you want to see where his successors found some inspiration, it's worth a try.

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When Dee's father tries to stop a robber, he inadvertently hits Dee's younger brother, who doesn't survive the hit. This shocks Dee so much that he decides to become a cop in order to combat crime. Years later Dee is part of the PDU, but when he gets involved with the daughter of a Triad boss his life suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

Jack Cheung isn't strong enough to carry the film, Sammi Cheng is still very young and Man-tat Ng is a bit awkward in a more serious role. The genre elements are a tad sloppy too, but at least the pacing is nice, and it never gets too dull or boring. That's the only thing this film has going for it, which isn't an awful lot.

Central Hero

by Herman Yau
Zhong Huan Ying Xiong
1991 / 98m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Romance
1.5*/5.0*
Central Hero poster

Herman Yau's early days. Like most Hong Kong directors, he started out directing throwaway genre fluff, filler films with little value that teach young directors the ropes. The only notable thing is the cast, as there are quite a few famous names present. Even they couldn't save this somewhat bland and noisy comedy though.

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Hero Wah is part of the Triads, Kit is an insurance broker. When Kit learns that he has a brain tumor, he wants to turn his life around for the time that he has left on this Earth, and so he switches lives with Hero. In their new realities they both find romance, but taking over someone else's life isn't as easy as they had imagined.

With guys like Andy Lau, Tony Leung and Anthony Wong around, expectations may rise, but don't bother. Like Yau, they are stuck in a bland and unadventurous comedy that fails to be funny, but tries to get by with increased pacing and noisy situational comedy. It's a good thing Yau left this type of films behind soon after, as he couldn't really excel or make a difference directing simple pulp like this.

Big nopes

Lethal Ninja

by Herman Yau
Chung Gik Yan Je
2006 / 94m - China
Action
1.0*/5.0*
Lethal Ninja poster

There rests a curse on ninja films. They are some of the most intriguing assassins, probably some of the most cinematic too, but (live action) ninja films often turn out completely bogus. Yau's attempt is no different. Most of his films hold some kind of baseline quality, but even that seems absent here. The result is pure crap.

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Mr. Brian is a slick businessman who hears about a secret medicine that cures all ailments, which is property of a long-lasting ninja clan. He gets his hands on the box that contains the medicine, but he is unable to open it. For that he needs a guy called Copy, but he is suffering from memory loss. Still, Copy is the key to unlocking the box.

There are some half-decent action scenes here, but that's about it. The costumes are terrible, the performances painful to watch, the ninja skills not worth discussing. Apparently this was a pretty troubled production, for once it can be seen in the resulting film. This one is for hardcore Yau completists only.

Old Master Q 2001

by Herman Yau
Lao Fu Zi
2001 / 104m - Hong Kong
Action, Animation
1.0*/5.0*
Old Master Q 2001 poster

I'm not familiar with the Master Q franchise, but I'm guessing it is squarely aimed at kids. This film is built on the promise of delivering a CG Master Q who interacts with live-action actors. I'm sure that was enough to draw a crowd in Hong Kong, no matter what the actual quality of the film. And beware when watching this, because said quality is truly poor.

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Master Q and his friends are running around Hong Kong, looking for a job. When they get a bit too frantic, they cause an accident that involves Fred and Mandy. They lose their memories and become enemies. Master Q feels bad, and he'll do anything to right his wrongs and bring the two back together. This of course is easier said than done.

The CG is very poor, the actors are about as subtle as their CG colleagues (Tse and Cheung can definitely do better) and the comedy is extremely basic. Everything here screams simple filler, hoping to make a buck on the franchise's legacy. It's a bit sad for everyone involved, if you're unfamiliar with Master Q there is no doubt better material available.

Troublesome Night 5

by Herman Yau
Yin Yeung Lo 5: Yat Kin Fat Choi
1999 / 90m - Hong Kong
Horror
1.0*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 5 poster

Hong Kong was never really able to profit from the most recent Asian horror wave, but that's not for their lack of horror cinema. Just look at the success of the Troublesome Night franchise, a series that outpaced even the most proficient Western horror series. Herman Yau directed a slew of the early ones, I'm not really a big fan.

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Like all the other films in the series, you get three unrelated horror shorts that our bound together by a somewhat random wrap-around segment. This time we get a cab driver who wants to escape his gambling debts and ends up in an old house with his young son. At night his boy won't stop crying, of course the house is haunted.

While these are clear horror stories on paper, the execution just isn't what you'd expect from a proper horror film. These films are never scary, the acting is highly exaggerated, and there's often some out of place comedy to lighten the mood. Yau is capable of doing solid horror films, but when he lowers himself to the Hong Kong baseline, it's just as bland as any other film in the genre.

Troublesome Night 3

by Herman Yau
Yin Yeung Lo 3: Sing Goon Fat Choi
1998 / 99m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
1.0*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 3 poster

The third entry in the series is another one helmed by Herman Yau. While he's a solid match on paper, Yau never really managed to elevate the series to something even remotely acceptable. I always welcome fun and basic genre filler, but these films are such a mess that it's almost impossible to get any enjoyment from them.

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This third film doesn't change anything to the formula. We get three short films that are tangentially related to a simple wrap-around segment. This time the film centers on a mortuary, a perfect setting for some horror-related tales (even though the shorts don't really make good use of the setting's full potential).

A young Louis Koo is about the only reason to watch these films, even when his performance is pretty poor too. Hysterical acting, an unbalanced mix of genres, a complete lack of tension, terrible make-up and effects. Nothing works, the only thing that saves the film from complete disaster is the anthology setup, which at least keeps hope alive that something better might come along. It never does though.

Troublesome Night 4

by Herman Yau
Yin Yeung Lo 4: Yu Gwai Tung Hang
1998 / 97m - Hong Kong
Comedy, Horror
1.0*/5.0*
Troublesome Night 4 poster

The fourth part in the Troublesome Night series brings nothing new. Yau works a little harder to blend the three different stories into the wraparound segment, but it still feels like a regular anthology film, and it still suffers from the same problems as its predecessors. One for hardcore fans and true completists only, in other words.

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This time we're going to The Philippines, because it makes for a nice change of setting. There's a story of a delivery boy who has to take back the ashes of a young girl to her hometown, another about a couple who are in for a good scare after a night of partying. But there's really no substance here, just an excuse for some quick horror/comedy thrills.

The most surprising thing is that Louis Koo features consistently throughout these early installments, we all have to start our career somewhere I guess. The mix of comedy and horror doesn't work, the film looks cheap, and there are no real redeeming qualities. But hey, if you like Yau and/or Koo and you want to see everything they've done, at least these films are relatively short.