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May 6th, 2002 Issue #107

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

This issue is dedicated to the memory of celebrated Taiwanese actor Lung Si-hung, who died last week at the age of 72. He was known for many roles but I will always remember him best for his turn as the celebrated chef who has lost his sense of taste in EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN.

John Charles
May 6th, 2002

Crash Landing
(2000; Shanghai Film Studio)

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Gan gap bik gong
Mandarin: Jin ji po jiang
English: Emergency Landing


Now here's something you don't see everyday: a disaster movie from Mainland China. Shortly after taking off from Shanghai, the pilots of passenger jet China Bluesky 569 discover that the craft's landing gear has malfunctioned and cannot be raised or lowered. The plane is ordered to return, while supervisor Liu Yuan (You Yong) and the Shanghai airport emergency crews try to evaluate the situation. Several attempts to jog the landing gear loose using the force of gravity fail and the plane's fuel begins to run dry. Meanwhile, tensions are rising on the plane, with the flight attendants struggling to maintain calm. After all potential avenues have been exhausted, it is decided to try and have a member of the crew manually correct the problem. When that fails, there is no choice but to attempt a forced landing.

You Yong (centre). Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Click here for the "crash landing" (courtesy Mei Ah)

In contrast to your typical American movie, where a single individual saves the day pretty much on his own, this toes the Communist party line by making the operation very much a group effort, with the spotlight shared by several of the main characters. While this change in perspective could have proven refreshing, director Zhang Jianya fails to generate any suspense because the storyline is fatally distended. The idea was apparently to have the situation take place in something approximating real time but the material is stretched far too thin, causing the dramatic crescendos to fall flat. On top of that, the screenplay is mainly a collection of hokey melodramatic situations affecting the usual cross section of passengers, including the conspicuously attractive crew beset by petty personal problems, a loveable pair of senior citizens on their first flight, an obnoxious jerk who turns out be a blithering coward, a comic relief factory supervisor with a suitcase full of cash, and a pair of dimwitted Westerners. CRASH LANDING is the first Mainland movie to feature CGI and the mostly unconvincing results, coupled with some jaw-droppingly poor miniature work, further destroys any credibility the movie might have possessed. The final blow is dealt via Fang Doxing's awful, mock-heroic score that drones on and on like the sort of departure terminal muzak that makes you want to cut in line for final boarding (the main title from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY also pops up on the track at one point). It is so rare for a Mainland production of this sort to get an English subtitled release, one always hopes to learn a bit more about the sort of fare your average Chinese citizen goes to see for a night of diversion. Alas, if CRASH LANDING is at all symptomatic of these pictures, then Western movie buffs are not missing very much. Shao Bing and Xu Fan co-star.

DVD Specs:

Mei Ah #DVD-456 (Hong Kong label)
Dolby Digital 2.1 & 5.1, and DTS
Sync Sound Mandarin and Dubbed Cantonese Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
12 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Letterboxed (1.74:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
115 Minutes
Contains mild violence

DVD menu (Side A) courtesy Mei Ah.
Note: The menu for Side B is practically identical.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Hong Kong: IIA
Singapore: PG


The film is a lost cause but the transfer looks quite nice, with rich colors and good contrasts. The source material has occasional stray speckles and the image is mildly grainy once in a while but, on the whole, this is a solid presentation with very little to complain about. A terrific stereo mix, boasting a detailed soundscape, adds considerably to the production (DTS is also provided for those with the appropriate decoder). Alas, Mei Ah not only still refuses to provide time functions, they also continue to split titles with multiple 5.1 soundtracks over two sides. If that were not irritating enough, one must sit through the copyright warning and logos a second time before continuing the movie! There are no extras.

CRASH LANDING is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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