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    The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:11 am

    “Yes, this is Mr. Li, the brother of Mr. Li” – the most hilarious statement in the film.

    I have only seen one other non-martial art Chor Yuen films and have not been impressed with either of them. My biggest concern going into this was that it was going to be similar to his worst faults in his wuxia films and there will be an overabundance of plot twists and characters. While there is a decent amount of characters and the plot is understandable, there are other issues that hurt the quality and credibility of this film. For fans of martial arts (there is less than a minute of total fight time) or crime action films, this is first and foremost a modern-day social melodrama. Do not let the beginning fool you. This movie would take in less a third the box office intake (421,644 HK$) than next year’s Killer Clans (1,596,557 HK$).

    The heist starts at the French bank Banque de Indochine (a real bank for the exterior) and the holdup is accomplished when 5 million HK dollars is being transferred and en route. For some reason gun shots are fired in the soundtrack, but not in the movie making me initially think that a few people were shot. This is foreboding of the realism and attention to detail that is to come with the rest of the film. It goes off without a hitch and they get away. The initial plan to split up and go to different countries is a smart one. However, if the masterminds of the robbery are not on your side you are in trouble. All five names of the culprits are leaked to the police before they can get away. Maiguang (Tin Ching) soon after he leaks the information gets rid of his companion Lucy right after she tells him that the boss might betray him. This scene is brazenly inept and the person who falls for it was so incredibly gullible that you want to strangle the screen. The boss does end up betraying him in another scene of masochism (for you the viewer not for them.) The main boss is actually the son of an inspector. In the most psychologically effective scene in the film, he actually takes the money into his dad’s office as if to rub his nose in it. I just wish more of the film was like this.

    While the five Li Guochao (Yueh Hua: Come Drink with Me), Li Guocheng (Wong Chung: All Men are Brothers), Huang Philip the race car driver (Ling Yung: Death Duel), Chen Jiuzai (Danny Lee: The Killer), and Ma Rulong the former martial art star (Chen Kuan-tai: Challenge of the Masters) are hiding out, what better time than to wax poetically about the past injustices of your life by incorporating melodramatic flashbacks. They all have reasons for wanting a large sum of cash. The Li brothers are in trouble with the triads because of the drug addicted Guocheng. Huang is out of work and his girlfriend the singer Fangting (Lau Ng-kei) is dying and has six months to live (the film seems to forget that if she has six months to live, she will be very sick a big chuck of that time) and he would like to take a worldwide trip with her before she discovers the undiscovered country. Chen has horrible parents and needs the money to take care of his siblings as well as wants to help his friend Ma. Ma was screwed over by his movie producers and wants his old life and house-set back. Will they escape to a better life? Will Chen be happy with the morally loose rich kid driving a sports car with a good heart Jenny (Lam Jan-kei) whom he recently kidnapped and now is his girlfriend?

    I love that so much of this was filmed outside. I enjoy seeing Hong Kong in film especially with the Shaw Brothers which I am used to seeing more set design than city life. The cinematography is good from Wong Chit (he has done a lot of Chor Yuen’s films.) I liked the use of the flashback structure though it often went into pathos to explain each individual’s reason for getting into the reasons for their predicament. It is an ambitious undertaking with a fatalist theme, but fails in its intent as either a social critique or a didactic message. I do not mind tonal shifts in film, but I do want them to be done competently.

    The ending is atrocious with one of the most horrific and idiotic shootings of a suspect I have ever seen. But there are more than a few other face-in-palm moments in this movie. There is a blowing up of a car that rivals Hans Moleman’s touch explosion in an episode of The Simpsons. This is not a comedy so you wonder, why did that car explode? Or the car jumping over two cars yet there was no ramp for that to happen. There is the quickest case of Stockholm Syndrome that I have ever seen. And I have not even complained yet about the very annoying drug addicted character whose behavior that led to his demise was one of the most frustratingly idiotic choices that made me want to go Elvis on the TV screen. He is a more annoying relative than Eric Robert’s character in The Pope of Greenwich Village. This movie is only for die-hard fans of Shaw Brothers or Chen Kuan-tai whose characterization is the best since he is a real martial artist playing a martial artist with an added intermittent limp.

    This was seen in the R3 IVL with mono Mandarin language track and English, Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesian subtitles. The English subtitles are quite good. There is a misleading new trailer for this film along with others for Danger Has Two Faces, The Condemned, Police Force and Kidnap. In the Movie Information section there is: Movie Stills, Original Poster, Production Notes (with a very misleading synopsis of the movie) and Biography and Selected Filmography.

    Sources:
    Mark Pollard Review: Good review. This is one of the few reviews out there on this movie. Mark is always fun to read. I agree with that New Police Story reference in the last paragraph. I wish I had thought of that originally.
    Heroes of the East Review Cal used to be on HKMDB, he is now doing standup somewhere in England. His mention of the swinging lights is pretty funny as this is noticeable in a few scenes. It gives it a small film noir film, even though they probably should not be swinging.
    French Banks in Hong Kong (for the very bored)
    Box Office figures from HKFA

    Questions:
    Where is this music lifted from?
    What were the older films of Chen Kuan-tai on here?
    On the back of the cover do you see misspellings on the English description? Does this signify it is a bootleg or is it misspelling on the DVD release?
    What car is Jenny driving? It seems familiar I just cannot place it (no make or model name on the body of the vehicle.)
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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Admin on Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:51 pm

    Oh my God, I've just read the review I did for this film from the "Sources" link. The "Cal used to be on HKMDB, he is now doing standup somewhere in England" is hilarious. I still stand by the comment "the scene where he gets screwed over by his film studio is probably not far from the truth". Reading this has somewhat reminded me of a few things. A rekindling of my past love is not far from the future, I think.
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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:13 pm

    Admin wrote:Oh my God, I've just read the review I did for this film from the "Sources" link.  The "Cal used to be on HKMDB, he is now doing standup somewhere in England" is hilarious.  I still stand by the comment "the scene where he gets screwed over by his film studio is probably not far from the truth".  Reading this has somewhat reminded me of a few things.  A rekindling of my past love is not far from the future, I think.

    Mark Pollard's review says the opposite in the review, by the screwing over, but I'm more in agreement with you. Once again always make sure your house is in your name.

    I do hope to rekindle your love. Wait that didn't sound right.

    But seriously there are hardly any reviews on that film. Me and you are the only two on HKMDB (none on IMDB, none before me on Amazon). No it is not a good film, but the director is getting more and more known because of his wuxia releases so I thought I should watch it and review it.

    Brian actually got me the film (you are awesome Brian.) Brian, how many films have you seen from this director?
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    Brian T

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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Brian T on Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:36 pm

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Brian, how many films have you seen from this director?

    Actually, I've been abstaining from Hong Kong cinema for so long—for reasons largely suggested in the "Now Watching..." thread—that I'm not actually sure how many Chor Yuen films I've seen, but I suspect the number is very very low, beyond perhaps a couple among his last directorial efforts, though I've read plenty of reviews and scholarly examinations of his work over the years, so there is some foundation there, which will hopefully prove useful when I tackle the large quantities of his output I've picked up via the IVL library.

    Still, glad to see at least one of us is getting a good Hong Kong fix these days. The itch is killing me, but I must soldier on filling in some longstanding "gaps" from other cinemas before scratching it. In the meantime, the stacks of HK movies continue to grow . . .  Smile 
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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Brian T on Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:09 pm

    Oh, and one more thing:

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:But seriously there are hardly any reviews on that film.  Me and you are the only two on HKMDB (none on IMDB, none before me on Amazon).  No it is not a good film, but the director is getting more and more known because of his wuxia releases so I thought I should watch it and review it.

    This is a telling comment, for sure, and one reason I still hold that Hong Kong's cinema is one that remains vastly unexplored, despite the abundance of reviews and scholarship out there. Sure, there have been many books written on the subject, and many more to come one hopes, but based on my own studies of these materials only a finite number of titles are usually explored in the west. It's a large number, mind you, but I strongly believe the number of films NOT reviewed or otherwise thoughtfully studied and placed in a variety of contexts is much larger. And the films are out there, even if they're increasingly hard to find these days as HK distributors largely stick to releasing current films. You just have to dig a bit harder to find them, in the back corners of Chinatown shops, in the farthest recesses of Buyoyo and YesAsia, in Bearserk's closets in Norway, at your local library, etc.

    This is the stuff—including films like THE BIG HOLDUP—that I most look forward to delving into when I rekindle my own love some day. Actually, that didn't sound right, either.

    I actually get a bit stoked (stoked, I said!!) when I'm mindlessly sorting through a storage tote stuffed with HK discs and decide to look up reviews or articles about some oldie (or even the occasional "newie") and find virtually nothing. Might mean a bit more work to craft my own review some day, but it also means I can make a contribution few if any have before me, and that's a rewarding challenge. Mind you, my capsule style doesn't allow for truly deep analysis, but I compensate with volume. Smile

    The fact that Chor Yuen, as you mention, is becoming more and more known for his Wuxia movies speaks volumes about how Hong Kong cinema is disseminated in the west, i think: wuxia-wuxia-wuxia, action-action-action, etc. Most Shaw directors tried their hands at multiple genres, as did (and do) their descendants, but if out of the blue you woke up one morning and decided to devote yourself to gorging on Hong Kong cinema—both new and old—based solely on international, largely amateur reviews on sites like Amazon, IMDB, various retail sites and extant DVD releases by North American and European distributors, you'd be eating from some comparatively meager plates, though probably without even knowing it. HKMDB does, thankfully, feature reviews—and, once upon a time, discussion—of a much wider breadth of titles and genres, but regrettably many of the reviews of the older and generally obscure stuff are of the one- or two-sentence variety penned by some of the earliest and most casual (and least-dedicated) contributors to the site, which too often makes them useless.

    In other words, there's still a lot of work to do, which is great.  Very Happy
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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:36 pm

    Brian T wrote: ...Actually, I've been abstaining from Hong Kong cinema for so long—for reasons largely suggested in the "Now Watching..." thread... Still, glad to see at least one of us is getting a good Hong Kong fix these days. The itch is killing me, but I must soldier on filling in some longstanding "gaps" from other cinemas before scratching it. ...

    How much longer till you think you have filled in your gaps? Obviously it is impossible to fill in all gaps, but at what point do you think you have hit the mark to go back to HK? You can still mix-up your viewings after you hit that mark too Smile (actually I think it helps to never get too monomaniacal in your viewings.) Are there any lists you are working on or is this just a general feeling?

    I think I hit that mark or at least I feel I do (because of my arrogance.) It is neverending though seriously and I work on it almost every day. It's like well I have this award winner to go (did I mention I have now seen all BP Academy Award Winners Very Happy, next all nominees) or having this director to go or going over this canon. I like having lists because they give me some goals to go over.

    I had some compliments on my The Rat Catcher review/essay which makes me feel I can contribute now. The good thing about each review is that I end up learning more that way. It forces me to do research, sometimes in the bowels of the Internet as well as my closet. But yeah I completely agree there is so much to still learn from HK cinema that goes unexplored.

    I also agree about only finding a few reviews here and there, including HKMDB which only have a few sentences here or there. Of course there are some good ones on there and I do appreciate those. Also, have you noticed that the reviews have been drying up of late. I have two in a row where no one else has put one inbetween. That has never happened to me before.

    But yeah, lots of work to be done. What's funny about this release is that I think several who saw it thought they were going to get an action film per Chor Yuen instead of a social melodrama. Of course, I think it was marketed that way as well.

    You are correct about action, action, action. I will add in horror as well since it has its fans across the globe. Those get picked because of exploitation, grossness, etc... but it seems comedy and social dramas have been often ignored for the Shaw Brothers films.
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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Brian T on Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:52 pm

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:How much longer till you think you have filled in your gaps?  Obviously it is impossible to fill in all gaps, but at what point do you think you have hit the mark to go back to HK?  You can still mix-up your viewings after you hit that mark too Smile(actually I think it helps to never get too monomaniacal in your viewings.)  Are there any lists you are working on or is this just a general feeling?
    Not sure. It always seems right around the corner, but then I keep stumbling across more "should-see" movies! And plenty of others that I simply want to check off the massive swirling checklist in my head. Wink

    I probably should follow your lead and find some lists to check off, but the Toronto Library collection makes that tricky because you have to put everything in your online queue and ya gets what ya gets when ya gets it. What this means is I rarely know what will turn up for me on the hold shelf at my local branch until the notifications hit my inbox. I've grown to like this approach as it means I pretty much have to watch whatever they give me, so I'm bouncing around time periods, genres and countries with abandon (not unlike the "mix-up" you mention), and yet each new "piece" inevitably fills—and increasingly completes—some larger part of the puzzle that existed in my head (or in all the film books on my shelves) before I moved to the city seven years ago.

    Basically, I'm trying to get as solid a cross-section as I can. Much of it will be of little use in reviewing old HK movies, but at least it's there to tap into. I don't necessarily need to see all the films of a particular director or performer, or all the films in a specific film movement, or all the films in this niche genre or that, or even all the films on a given list (though that's awfully tempting sometimes), just enough of them that I can have a strong-ish comprehension of the "big picture" of world cinema to inform any future writing. Based on the evolution of your own reviews over the years, I'd say we're largely doing the same thing, only from different angles. Smile

    Personally, though, I just didn't want to be "that guy" who professed a love for or—dare i say?—an expertise in Hong Kong cinema, but who backed it up with little more than a condescending attitude and a viewing history slanted virtually wholesale toward cult "flicks" and Euro-sleaze and only the rarest of ventures into mainstream and independent world cinema, populist fare, arthouse gems, silent film, etc (all areas where many Hong Kong auteurs actually found, and find, their own inspiration, not in the gutters). Guys like that—and we knew them at HKMDB, too—in my opinion, and despite their deep passion, ghettoized (and continue to ghettoize) Hong Kong cinema into a "schlocky" cult-ish commodity by cherry-picking what they review, a tact that invariably paints it as a second- or third-class citizen among the Asian cinemas. Thankfully, most of "those guys" don't write books, but their online wankings still have remarkable reach when it comes to giving off a skewed idea about Hong Kong cinema as a whole, or at least pigeon-holing it because they don't go to the well as often as they'd like us to believe, and if they did, not writing about everything they watch and instead only reviewing the wuxia, action and horror shows. But I digress, as usual . . .  

    There is a method to my madness, and it's fueled by the fact that I have the Toronto Library's truly impressive collection at my disposal. In case the day comes that I don't, I plan to pillage it as much as possible in the meantime. Even when I rekindle the Hong Kong cinema flame on a more dedicated basis, I'll obviously continue to mix in plenty of fare from elsewhere, but it will be a lot easier with hundreds if not thousands of "I really should see that" films no longer haunting the back of my mind, literally.

    So long as Alzheimer's doesn't set in, this protracted cram session will hopefully prove useful moving forward. Smile

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:The good thing about each review is that I end up learning more that way. It forces me to do research, sometimes in the bowels of the Internet as well as my closet.
    When the bug hit me to start cataloging my Hong Kong movie experiences, I had already watched probably 60 or 70 movies without even thinking of putting pen to paper. But the deeper I got, and the more I realized from my trips to Toronto's Chinese video stores just how many films weren't included in the few mainstream books available on the subject at the time, or even in the fanzines I would occasionally unearth, and it suddenly made real sense to start keeping track, so I reviewed as many of those first 60-70 as I could (which wasn't much, so I still need to revisit my starting point some day), and then logged a capsule review—researched as thoroughly as possible—of every single Hong Kong movie I've watched since then. Once I realized that even the interweb and its varied and often-condescending "experts" either hadn't bothered to review (or even SEE) vast numbers of the VCDs I was picking up by the truckload in those Chinatown shops, I knew i was onto a lifelong love affair and a massive and very rewarding lifetime personal project. When I (hopefully temporarily) tapped out a few years back, I had just over 1300 capsule reviews, a few of which are still up at HKMDB (though a few have enjoyed some tweaks thanks to subsequent research).

    Often, the very act of watching and reviewing those mountains of Hong Kong cinema—and this undoubtedly goes for any country's cinema—is itself the research that yields new little nuggets of information, or helps reveal a pattern, fill in a historical trend, etc., which can only enrich a review further.

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:It is neverending though seriously and I work on it almost every day.
    Same here. I do wish I could write thorough reviews like yours for everything I watch, but the discs just come too fast and furious most of the time. And frankly, a LOT of the stuff I get from the library IS well-reviewed already, so I know contributions from me won't add much to the pie. It's those eight or nine large storage totes stuffed with unheralded Hong Kong movies in the other room where the real action is. Wink

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Also, have you noticed that the reviews have been drying up of late.  I have two in a row where no one else has put one inbetween.  That has never happened to me before.
    I've noticed that on occasion. It's great that people are still contributing reviews there, but the frequency has diminished for sure. Life undoubtedly gets in the way for most of us on occasion, so that's one explanation. I'm certain there are others, though. Sad
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    Re: The Big Holdup (1975: Chor Yuen: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:35 pm

    Brian T wrote:It always seems right around the corner, but then I keep stumbling across more "should-see" movies! And plenty of others that I simply want to check off the massive swirling checklist in my head.

    It's good to read your writing again. We will always been stumbling across "must-see" films. Especially since they keep making more. Even if they did not, we still would have so much to go over. You could spend a lifetime over silent film alone and even that is missing more than half of what was put out. I do think silent film is oft-neglected to the detriment of many people who study/follow/enjoy film.

    I believe in the importance of canon (as well as fitness, in-joke to what film?). If you kept up on any lists site it would be easy to check what you should and what you have watched Very Happy (kidding of course, we all miss "important" films.)

    I agree reading film books is important too.

    Basically, I'm trying to get as solid a cross-section as I can. Much of it will be of little use in reviewing old HK movies, but at least it's there to tap into. I don't necessarily need to see all the films of a particular director or performer, or all the films in a specific film movement, or all the films in this niche genre or that, or even all the films on a given list (though that's awfully tempting sometimes), just enough of them that I can have a strong-ish comprehension of the "big picture" of world cinema to inform any future writing. Based on the evolution of your own reviews over the years, I'd say we're largely doing the same thing, only from different angles. Smile

    Brian T wrote:
    I just didn't want to be "that guy" who professed a love for or—dare i say?—an expertise in Hong Kong cinema, but who backed it up with little more than a condescending attitude and a viewing history slanted virtually wholesale toward cult "flicks" and Euro-sleaze and only the rarest of ventures into mainstream and independent world cinema, populist fare, arthouse gems, silent film, etc (all areas where many Hong Kong auteurs actually found, and find, their own inspiration, not in the gutters). Guys like that—and we knew them at HKMDB, too—in my opinion, and despite their deep passion, ghettoized (and continue to ghettoize) Hong Kong cinema into a "schlocky" cult-ish commodity by cherry-picking what they review, a tact that invariably paints it as a second- or third-class citizen among the Asian cinemas.

    Testify my testy brother! Testify! Personally I also wanted to know more about film. I like so many different aspects, genres, time periods of film that it makes no sense not too study (if you are into film.) But also what I found out was how much canards are out there in film (and well books too and heck many things.) For example, Mark (at bullets and babes) stated that Yojimbo was a remake of the book Red Harvest. I thought that as well since it is posted as the same in many areas. After I read the book (and wrote a lengthy post on it), I found out that well it wasn't. I had wondered why Donald Richie never mentioned it in his book on Akira Kurosawa. But there are tons of examples like this where bad information keeps getting passed around. Hence our studying actually helps out if we combat that.

    I felt I was ignoring mainstream films too much so I helped rectify that a bit that past few years. I'm sure I'll swing back to more independent or more non-US films, but I don't think I'll ignore big budget as much as I did for several year. Partially because I go more to the theater now than I did for several years. Plus, and this is a big reason, I can actually communicate with people who are offline. But I will never ignore good/great films. Also I wanted to understand movements more so I have gone more in the past to watch more films that were commercially successful in their days.

    Brian, I would love to see your capsule catalog whenever you publish it.  


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