Explosive new season of crime films from Hong Kong to take over Home

Home is set to feature 20 different Hong Kong crime films over three months as the UK’s biggest and boldest celebration of Hong Kong Cinema to take stops at Manchester’s cinema and theatre complex as a part of a UK tour taking in 30 venues across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Curated by Andy Willis, Reader in Film Studies at the University of Salford and Senior Visiting Curator (Film) at HOME, the season will showcase 20 titles, including everything from cult movies (Police Story, As Tears Go By), classics (Infernal Affairs, Election) to forgotten gems (Too Many Ways to be No.1, Portland Street Blues); with UK premieres (Dante Lam’s That Demon Within and Ringo Lam’s Wild City) and One Hour Intros and Q&As with leading figures from the Hong Kong film industry.

According to film experts, there has undoubtedly been a recent surge in interest in global Chinese cinema, primarily focusing on films produced in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) such as the BFI’s 2014 Electric Shadows season, a five-month programme celebrating China’s rich film tradition.

Building on this discourse, CRIME: Hong Kong Style aims to allow audiences to reconnect with the innovative contribution of the Hong Kong film industry to the ever popular genre of crime film. Its programme focuses on the influence of Hong Kong filmmakers on one of global cinemas most enduring genres, including films from the 1980s and 1990s ‘golden era’ of the Hong Kong gangster film but also works from the 60s and 70s – revealing the complex and rich heritage of Hong Kong crime films often unknown to UK audiences. The programme will also include striking contemporary Hong Kong crime films that show an awareness of the city’s history in their self-reflexive style and reworking of the genre’s codes and conventions.

Andy Willis commented: “This programme will represent much more than the stereotypical images of triad gangsters wielding machetes on the neon-lit streets of Kowloon – though there may be some machete wielding going on. We want to allow audiences to connect and re-connect with iconic Hong Kong crime films that excite, entertain and often also educate.”

Rachel Hayward, CRIME: Hong Kong Style Producer, added: “We’re particularly excited to be welcoming guests from the Hong Kong crime film industry, who will also be visiting some of the touring venues for special Q&A’s and events. This is the biggest film season event in the UK to date that recognises and showcases the quintessential role the Hong Kong crime film genre plays in global cinema.”

CRIME: Hong Kong Style programme highlights include:

That Demon Within (Mo jing)
UK Premiere
Dir Dante Lam/2014 HK CN/111 mins/CTBA
Daniel Wu, Nick Cheung, Sixuan Chen, Kai Chi Liu, Ka Wah Lam, Andy On, Kwok-Lun Lee
The new Hong Kong action maestro Dante Lam is behind this taut and ultimately unsettling psychological thriller. Quiet and distant cop Dave (Daniel Wu) is increasingly haunted by the violent images of a criminal gang who use traditional demon masks when committing their crimes. Truth, reality and imagination begin to blur in this stylish film with which Lam once again brings a new energy to the Hong Kong crime film.

The Pilferers’ Progress (aka Crazy Money) (Fa qian han)
Dir John Woo/1977 HK/92 mins/CTBA
Richard Ng, Ricky Hui, Angie Chiu, Ying Cheung, Ming Yu, Chin-Lai Sung, Hoi Sang, Lan Law
Ricky Hui and Richard Ng star as a pair of criminals who join forces to help a young woman retrieve her family’s jewels from Rich Chen. A broad slapstick comedy, here John Woo is venturing into territory that will be distinctly unfamiliar to his many UK fans. The Pilferers’ Progress is an example of Hong Kong comedy at its frenetic and crazy best and proves that Woo is more than simply a master of cinematic mayhem. The film was a box-office smash in Hong Kong.

Police Story (Jing cha gu shi)
Dir Jackie Chan/1985 HK/99 mins
Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Kwok-Hung Lam, Bill Tung, Yuen Chor, Charlie Cho
Following his disappointment with the US produced The Protector (1985), Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan wrote and directed this crime story vehicle to showcase his wide variety of skills in front of and behind the camera. The result is a hugely influential blend of action, comedy and crime and remains perhaps one of the greatest films ever made.

As Tears Go By (Wong gok ka moon)
Dir Wong Kar-wai/1988 HK/102 mins/CTBA
Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Alex Man, Ronald Wong, To-Hoi Kong, Ching Wai, Kau Lam
Award-winning director Wong Kar-wai’s debut, As Tears Go By, is a classic gangster film about loyalty, ambition and respect. It centres on Wah, a tough criminal specialising in debt collecting for the mob, who has to continually look out for his best friend Fly. When Ngor arrives in Hong Kong, her presence makes Wah question his life. With a stellar cast including Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and Maggie Cheung, the influence of As Tears Go By can still be seen on contemporary Hong Kong crime films over two decades after its release.

To Be Number One (Bo Hao)
Dir Poon Man-kit/1991 HK/136 mins/ Cantonese, English,Mandari, Thai, Hakka with EngST/CTBA
Ray Lui, Kent Cheng, Cecilia Yip, Amy Yip, Waise Lee, Lawrence Ng, Kwong Leung Wong
Ray Lui’s performance as mobster Ng Shek-ko majestically leads this epic, and highly influential, crime drama that in true crime film style follows the rise and fall of a gangster from humble beginnings. Supposedly based upon a true story, but clearly influenced by a range of Hollywood classics, its success kick-started a cycle of ‘rise of the gangster’ films in Hong Kong. To Be Number One was voted Best Film at the 1992 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Too Many Ways to be No.1 (Jat go zi tau di daan sang)
Dir Wai Ka-fai/1997 HK/90 mins /CTBA
Lau Ching-wan, Carman Lee, Francis Ng, Ruby Wong, Tat-Ming Cheung, Elvis Tsui, Joe Cheng, Matt Chow, Pounh Chong Soong
Released on the eve of Hong Kong’s handover to the PRC in 1997, this darkest of dark comedy centres around a seemingly minor decision which brings about two very different fates for an unlucky small-time gangster played by Lau Ching-wan. A long-time collaborator of Johnnie To, who works here as Producer, the delirious, excessive and endlessly inventive Too Many Ways To Be No.1 is typical of writer-director Wai Ka-fai’s, exploration of fate.

Portland Street Blues (Goo waak chai ching yee pin ji hung hing sap saam mooi)
Dir Yip Wai Man/1998 HK/114 mins/CTBA
Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, Kristy Yang, Alex Fong, Yeung-Ming Wan, Qi Shu, Noel Chik, Ekin Cheng, Man Tat Ng, Ken Lo
A relative of the popular Young and Dangerous franchise, Portland Street Blues offers a significant lead role for Sandra Ng, who takes the opportunity to deliver a nuanced and powerful performance as a woman who rises up through the ranks of a triad gang.

Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)
Dir Andrew Lau/2002 HK/101mins/Cantonese and English with partial EngST /CTBA
Andy Lau, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue
Bringing together two of Asia’s biggest stars, Andy Lau and Tony Leung, Infernal Affairs became a world-wide hit upon its release and remains one of Hong Kong’s most famous and influential crime films. At its core it is a classic, edge of the seat, cop and gangster cat and mouse story. Infernal Affairs was later remade by Martin Scorsese as the award-winning The Departed.

Wild City (Bou Chau Mai Sing)
UK Premiere
Dir Ringo Lam/2015 HK/120 mins/CTBA
Louis Koo, Shawn Yue, Liya Tong, Hsiao-chuan Chang, Jack Kao
Ringo Lam, the director of one of the most influential Hong Kong crime films City on Fire (1987), returns to the crime genre with this exciting and stylish neo-noir. Starring Louis Koo and Shawn Yue, Wild City offers a classic cat and mouse tale as a former cop and his wayward brother quickly get out of their depth when they take on a ruthless gang of Taiwanese gangsters.

Election (Hak se wui)
Dir Johnnie To/2005 HK/100 mins/Cantonese, Mandarin, English with EngST/CTBA)
Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Tung Lam, Siu-Fai, Suet Lam, Tian-Lin Wang, Bing-Man Tam, Maggie Siu
Johnnie To is one of Hong Kong’s most important contemporary filmmakers and this one of his greatest works. Starring Hong Kong acting heavyweights Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai, Election focuses on the selection of a new triad leader and explores a string of issues from generational conflict to tradition and loyalty. At the same time Election is a pointed reflection on the politics of post-1997 Hong Kong.

Beast Stalker (Ching yan)
Dir Dante Lam/2008 HK/109 mins/CTBA
Nicholas Tse, Nick Cheung, Jingchu Zhang, Pu Miao, Kai Chi Liu, Philip Keung, Jing-hung Kwok, Sherman Chung, He Zhang, Suet-yin Wong, Sum-yin Wong
With a string of successful and stylish films, director Dante Lam has established himself at the forefront of contemporary Hong Kong cinema. A muscular thriller that centres on Nicholas Tse’s psychologically battered cop and Nick Cheung’s desperate and warped assassin, Beast Stalker is one of his best. This film took Lam’s work to a new level and with its kinetic visual style contributed to the re-imagining of the Hong Kong crime film.

Once a Gangster (Fei saa fung chung chun)
Dir Felix Chong/2010 HK/95 mins/CTBA
Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Alex Fong, Conroy Chi-Chung Chan, Michelle Ye, On-On Yu, Wilfred Lau
In his solo directorial debut, Infernal Affairs co-writer Felix Chong playfully subverts the expectations of the gangster film. Here two gangsters Sparrow (Ekin Cheng) and Roast Pork (Jordan Chan) fight to become number 1. The twist is that Roast Pork would much rather be left alone to pursue his real desire to be a chef. Full of witty references to Hong Kong crime films that add to the pleasures on offer Once a Gangster is a real delight.

You may also be interested in:

In Interview: Jessica Jane Stafford
In Review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Opera House
Previewed: Exhibition inspired by movie Safe at Home