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November 5th, 2001 Issue #81

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.

NOTE: The review for GUNMEN has been excerpted from The Hong Kong Filmography. Information about the DVD edition, written specifically for Hong Kong Digital, follows.

(1988; Cinema City Co. / Film Workshop)

Cover art courtesy Mega Star.

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

Cantonese: Tin law dei mong
Mandarin: Tian lun di wang
English: Dragnet


Tony Leung Kar-fai. Image courtesy Mega Star.

Cinematographers: Ardy Lam Kwok-wah, Andrew Lau Wai-keung
Art Directors: Andy Lee Yiu-kwong, Eddie Ma Poon-chiu
Music: Danny Chung Teng-yat
Writers: Law Kam-fai, Lip Wan-fung
Producer: Tsui Hark
Action Director: Fung Hark-on
Director: Che-Kirk Wong Chi-keung
Cast: Tony Leung Kar-fai (Ding Chun-bee), Waise Lee Chi-hung (Ching), Mark Cheng Ho-nam (Kwong), David Wu Tai-wai (Fan), Adam Cheng Siu-chau (Haye), Elizabeth Lee Mei-fung (Mona Fong), Carrie Ng Kar-lai (Chu-chiao), Elvis Tsui Kam-kong (The Superintendent), Wong Kam-kong (Haye's Man)
VHS: Tai Seng
Import LD: Golden Cinema City
Import VCD: Mega Star
87 minutes

Adam Cheng Siu-chau. Image courtesy Mega Star.

Easily the standout among several HK imitations of Brian DePalma's The Untouchables, Gunmen is set in the late 1920s, a time when the Shanghai police department was riddled with corruption. Ding Chun-bee is a noble recruit determined to play by the rules but also to make a dent in the wave of crime that permeates the streets and the stationhouse. When Ding's superior is murdered by Haye, an old war enemy, a tough new superintendent is put in charge by the French. Determined to get revenge for his friend's death, Ding drafts some of his old war buddies into the force and, together, they make great headway battling the local opium dealers. However, in their zeal to nail Haye, they seize a shipment of what turns out to be medical supplies, causing Haye's seriously ill confederate to expire before the penicillin can reach him. Haye's men seek vengeance, leading to an all-out gun war.

From left to right: Mark Cheng Ho-nam, Waise Lee Chi-hung and David Wu Tai-wai. Image courtesy Mega Star.

The storyline would be fairly easy to predict, even without the Hollywood connection, Tony Leung Kar-fai is distractingly dubbed by another actor, and the female roles are weakly written. Regardless, Gunmen is shot and edited with such invigorating style and rhythm, it confirms Che-Kirk Wong's place as one of HK cinema's preeminent technicians, more so than any other title in his filmography. The period detail is excellent, the action is bloody and intense, and the stuntwork (which includes some elaborate fire "gags") is outstanding. Most of the score is original but there are also tracks lifted from The Hidden.

Elizabeth Lee Mei-fung. Image courtesy Mega Star.

DVD Specs:

Mega Star #MS/DVD/235/HK
Dolby Digital 5.1
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks (both post-synched)
Optional Subtitles In English, Chinese (Traditional or Simplified), Japanese, and Korean
9 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Video Grabs
Letterboxed (1.75:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Macrovision Encoded
84 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second; 87 Minutes at 24 frames-per-second)
Contains brutal violence and coarse language

DVD menu courtesy Mega Star.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Australia: R (Frequent Violence)
Great Britain: 18
Hong Kong: III
Ontario: R (Brutal Violence, May Offend Some)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]


In the time since I originally wrote the above review, Mega Star has issued GUNMEN on DVD and their version represents a marginal improvement over the Golden Cinema City laserdisc. The prints used for both versions are speckled but wear is not quite as prominent on the DVD and the image is also somewhat better detailed. Hues are a slightly more intense on the LD but the DVD's color balance seems more accurate. The 5.1 re-mix adds little to the film and does not represent much of an improvement over the original mono track on the LD. A trailer, the Mega Star DVD promo, and brief bios / filmographies for Tony Leung Kar-fai and Waise Lee make up the extras.

Carrie Ng Kar-lai. Image courtesy Mega Star.

GUNMEN is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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