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Hong Kong Action Film Day at the National Film Theatre (NFT)

(Saturday, 18th April, 1998, NFT1 - in association with Impact Magazine)

The films:

The Adventurers (1995) - 2.00pm

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) - 4.15pm

Full Contact (1992) - 6.30pm

The Killer (1989) - 8.45pm

I arrived at the NFT's Hong Kong Action Film Day only in time for Full Contact and The Killer - not being too bothered in catching Andy Lau in The Adventurers and I've got A Chinese Ghost Story on video. On the other hand, both Full Contact and The Killer were appealing. Considered (to a lesser or greater degree depending on your opinion) as near classics of the Hong Kong action genre and, in one of those strange quirks of fate, I hadn't actually got around to seeing either.

I met with a friend in the now re-vamped (and seemingly more cramped) NFT bar for a drink beforehand and went to check out the dealer tables in the foyer. Unfotunately, there was only one table and as a result hordes of HK film fans were fighting to get a glimpse of the few goodies on offer. It belonged to Eastern Heroes and consisted of a variety of EH wares (the EH magazine, books and video releases), along with some Made in Hong Kong videos and a small selection of videos from a less-than-obivously-reputable source - though nothing I was interested in. I did however pick up the Made in Hong Kong widescreen release of Saviour of the Soul which, despite the dreadful sleeve art, was a good buy at a discounted £10.99.

I thought Full Contact was a very cheesy affair. By Hong Kong action movie standards it wasn't any great shakes - the action sequences were pretty tame, the performances workmanlike, only the visuals manage to create any lasting impression - but even those were, relatively, few and far between. Fortunately, The Killer was much superior. Chow Yun Fat (also starring in Full Contact) was on better form here and was also receiving better direction from John Woo. There were some of those classic, laughable Woo-isms. The climactic shootout leaving Chow Yun Fat's character blind and scrambling around on the ground trying to feel for his equally blind girlfriend (and both just missing each other by inches) sets an all-time-high in unintentionally hilarious/bad taste cinematic moments.

Films aside, the best part of the entire event was an unadvertised personal appearance by Fat's co-star in Full Contact, and leading HK actor in his own right, Anthony Wong. Wong happened to be in London on holiday so Eastern Heroes' Rick Baker asked if he would come along answer a few questions, sign a few autographs and watch Full Contact with the fans. The dapper and very cool-looking actor agreed and the results were highly entertaining. Wong's English was pretty good but he confessed to being incredibly nervous in front of a live audience. He needn't have worried. He went down a storm. After telling how he has made a staggering 50-60 films in the last five years alone (!!), he was asked about his memories of making Full Contact. Unsurprisingly, Wong stated that with so many films under his belt in so short a time the productions blurred together somewhat! Following the screening, Wong was asked back on stage to comment on his role in Full Contact. "You want an honest answer?" he asked Rick Baker, "It is a terrible film!" he declared, shaking his head in embarrassment. Baker responded by saying that it was still one of his all-time favourite films!

Best known in Hong Kong for his portrayal as the mass-murderer named Bunman (a Category III film most unlikely to impress the BBFC in the UK), Rick Baker had prepared postcards showing Wong as Bunman with hands full of intestines with the words "I met Bunman and survived to tell the tale" printed on them, so that fans could use the cards to get an autograph. Of course, Dark Star got a signed copy for its fans and we'll be including it on this website in the near future as part of a larger celebrity gallery. Baker's efforts turned what could have been just another set of film screenings into more of an 'event day' as the NFT had planned and as such it was a great success and I, for one, would be happy to support more of its kind.

Rob Dyer

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