Another old Chinese movie playing at Fantasia 2022 is Shaw Brothers’ Mercenaries from Hong Kong. The 2K restoration screened over the weekend and I hope a home video rerelease is planned. It’s a must for any collector and enthusiast of vintage Hong Kong action cinema.
To note, not even I have seen every movie that’s been released during this time. There’s plenty of works that have never crossed the Pacific to screen in North America, and back then, the only source to find these works meant frequenting video rental shops in Chinatown. But they do not import every film unless they bootleg. Alas, these operations have become a thing of the past. These days, we search YouTube for trailers and visit YesAsia to make a purchase. To note, the DVD is out of print and not everybody has a player for the outdated VCD format. Perhaps this recent restoration might mean a new release is coming.
This answer to Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables franchise doesn’t look too dated. Aside from the 80s look because that’s when this film first released, I rather enjoyed the throwback to this era. As a matter of fact, I can watch this movie multiple times and find something new to enjoy or chuckle at. That’s because we have an ensemble cast of six actors playing The A-Team. Nearly every type of special forces representation is there, and yes, there’s even the Face man who is more of a womaniser than anything else. I’m sure director Jing Wong is a man ahead of the times, because this film was released before the television series even came out. His career was built on crafting the familiar, and in delivering the yuks in casual Jackie Chan fashion.
In Mercenaries from Hong Kong, the charismatic Ti Lung (Luo Li, pictured below) is hired by He Ying (Candice Yu) to kill the assassin sent to murder her father (Philip Ko). She wants vengeance and has figured out he’s hiding in Cambodia. It’s not the friendliest of places to visit, either, and she needs help. When she finds this bounty hunter, her offer seems simple, but he knows it’ll be difficult. He’ll have to call on his old friends—Ruan Nanxing (Michael Chan Wai Man), Lei Tai (Lo Lieh), Hong Fan (Johnny Wang Lung Wei), Curry (Wong Yu) and Blanche (Nat Chan)—to help. Each of them has a special skill. Provided that they succeed, what they end up in is a rat’s nest of deceit and double-dealing. There’s nobody they can trust but themselves!
As Mercenaries from Hong Kong adds everything we adore from martial arts films and Stephen J. Cannell’s 80s hits for action, and it can’t get any more gonzo. I’ll have to buy the home video release, so I can admire the stunt work and choreography in slow motion. I haven’t had this much enjoyment for a sock it to ‘em action for a long time, and the situations these men find themselves embroiled in are classic. Also, the outrageousness that writer director Jing Wong is known for is perfect for this film.
I cheered in the last seconds before the credits rolled because that freeze frame is straight out of The A-Team. I can hear George Peppard (Hannibal) say, “The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings,” before firing a rocket launcher. I won’t say too much else about this scene, but it makes for the perfect closing moment.
Anyone who hasn’t seen a lot of Jing Wong’s films will be in for a treat. Quite simply, he is Hong Kong’s own version of Michael Bay! When moviegoers simply want films that are stuffed with T&A and loud explosions, this filmmaker will deliver!
5 Stars out of 5