The good stuff
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Worthy but flawed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.