Hong Kong films tore up kung fu stereotypes in the 80s/90s. Here’s the definitive tome on stunt hazards, pistol ballets, snarky gangsters and toothsome molls, hopping vampires, and Hong Kong noir. Start with John, Jacky and Michelle — evolve to Johnnie To, Ringo Lam, the fantastic world of Tsui Hark, and the auteurdrome of Wong Kar-wai.
How and why did films from Hong Kong—a British Crown Colony and map-speck—become so popular? It started in the 50s, when Chinese tycoons named Shaw decided to produce their own films as they felt quality was lacking. The Shaw Brothers owned cinemas in Southeast Asia, but creative freedom was lacking in those territories. The Shaws built their studios in Hong Kong and were soon cranking out high-quality features for distribution across much of Asia — and Chinatowns worldwide.
When the Shaws dropped almost all their film production to feed nouveau riche Hong Kongers via their TVB television channel, Hong Kong experienced a sudden wave of new filmmakers. Golden Harvest became the de facto number one studio with a cadre of filmmakers led by Sammo Hung. The most famous was Jackie Chan, who rocketed to stardom and created his own stunt team. In film after film, Jackie and Sammo co-starred in and/or competed for audience thrills with films that showcased their martial prowess and respective senses of humor.
More Sex, Better Zen, Faster Bullets explicates, amplifies, and just plain rips across genres and filmmakers in one of the world’s most storied film industries. Become an afflictionado.