ReelAsian 2018 Review: HOUSE OF THE RISING SONS (Hong Kong 2018)

Hing daai baan Poster
The musical biography of the 1970s Hong Kong rock band The Wynners. Starting with their humble beginnings as band causing noise in the neighborhood, through to their career of massive stars throughout Asia.


Anthony Chan

Who else best to make a movie of the band The Wynners, a Hong Kong pop sensation of the 70’s than a member of the band himself?  Anthony Chan started the chart-topping pop band The Wynners, the band inspired by The Beatles’ visit to Hong Kong. 

 The film traces the band’s formation.   Despite opposition from their parents, five young men form a neighbourhood band called The Loosers to play music and rebel against the staid conformity of their traditional upbringing.  

As they began to pursue their dreams, they find that the journey to stardom is never easy.  Armed with grit, perseverance and raw talent, the band weathers the strain brought on by creative conflicts, personnel shake-ups and their rapidly growing popularity to become The Wynners and establish themselves as true musical legends.  The cliche-ridden film is a breezy easy-going comedy that is often all over the place.   This is no BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, but a teen flick where teens can do anything while the elders are the ones who always look silly and do everything wrong.   

Though touted as a bio of the band, the film feels less so.



Movie Review: KILL ZONE 2 (China/ Hong Kong 2015) ***

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killzone2.jpgKILL ZONE 2 (China/ Hong Kong 2015) ***
Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang

Starring: Tony Jaa, Jing Wu, Simon Yam

Review by Gilbert Seah

KILL ZONE 2, the sequel is largely different from the first film, this one being more ambitious and set in Thailand in addition to Hong Kong with both Thai and Chinese spoken. It also stars Thai action star Tony Jaa who is not in the first. Jaa is the star of the popular Thai ONG BAK action flicks who also landed a role in FURIOUS 7. Simon Yam and Wu Jing appear in both KILL ZONE films but play different characters.

There are several stories in this movie, all linked by coincidences. All are equally important judging from director Cheang’s treatment of each, giving each equal screen time. One involves a Thai prison guard Chai (Tony Jaa). His daughter has leukaemia and requires a marrow donor that only a person called Kit (Wu Jing) can give, due to matching blood type requirements. Coincidence has it that Kit is one of the prisoners in the Thai prison. There is more. Kit is an undercover cop working for his uncle, Wah (Simon Yam veteran of over a dozen Hong Kong films including IP MAN). The undercover operation turned bad and Kit is in jail. The suspect is crime boss Mr Hung (Louis Koo) who needs a blood transplant from his brother (Jun Kung), who turns out to be the cops’ suspect. A minor subplot involves the stern warden Ko (Zhang Jin) who wants Kit dead for the smooth operation of his prison. Mr Hung had saved the warden’s life before.

If you think the plot sounds difficult to follow, it is. It takes 45 minutes for the film to get its footing. At this mark, the audience is able to follow who is whom, who the bad and good guys are and which uncle or brother or daughter needs a blood or organ transplant and whether the syndicate deals with drugs or body parts.

The stories all come together at the film’s climax which of course ends in lots of martial-arts fights. A few elaborate action sequences include the ones at an airport and a prison break. These action sequences make the film.

KILL ZONE 2 share the same traits as most Hong Kong crime kung-fu action films like the IP Man films. Director Cheang accomplishes a rare feat of invoking some genuine emotions with the characters. The scene in which Inspector Wah and Mr. Hung talk it over outside a hospital displays seriousness in the acting department between the two Hong Kong stars.
The film is not without the typical corny dialogue. The worst of these is Chai comforting his daughter talking about how a seed germinates in the dark and the importance of having hope. The many coincidences are attributed to as Uncle Wah says God toying with them.

It is odd to see this commercial martial-arts film selected for a run at TIFF Bell Lightbox where art house films are mostly screened. Judging the other typical Hong Kong action flicks (from Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers) of this variety, KILL ZONE 2 hits the mark.

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