With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ACF 598: The Storm Warriors - a NYAFF 2010 Preview Review

The Storm Warriors
Directed by The Pang Brothers (Oxide and Danny Pang)
Starring Ekin Cheng, Aaron Kwok, Simon Yam, Nicholas Tse
Hong Kong, 2009, 110 minutes
In Cantonese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

At the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater:
- Sunday, June 27th at 12:00 noon (Simon Yam is scheduled to be at this screening)
- Thursday, July 1st at 9:00 PM

As I sometimes like to do with films I'm reviewing (as opposed to one's I'm just putting out the word on), first I'll present the publicity statement, then my own take on the film. I especially feel the need to do this here to be as fair as possible. You'll understand when you read my review comments at the end of the post.

Here's what SubwayCinema.com had to say:

In 1998 the Hong Kong film business was in danger of disappearing, but out of nowhere came THE STORM RIDERS, a special effects extravaganza based on a popular comic book and directed by Andrew Lau (INFERNAL AFFAIRS). A massive hit across Asia, it single-handedly saved the Hong Kong film industry. Now, 12 years later, comes THE STORM WARRIORS, based on the same Ma Wing-shing comic and with some of the same cast, but otherwise a standalone flick that is the closest cinema has ever come to putting Chinese martial arts comic books, with all of their surreal techniques and freaky superpowers, on the silver screen.

From the very first frame the choirs are wailing like a death metal concept album times infinity, and every shot is a blast-beat drum solo, every edit is a power chord and when the characters fight it's like two planets smashing into each another. Cloud (pop star gone supernova, Aaron Kwok) has been captured by Lord Godless (Simon Yam, playing an evil Japanese warlord) along with his master, Nameless (Kenny Ho, playing one of the original comic's most popular characters). Their armies are destroyed, their powers have been stripped and things look grim. Suddenly, Wind (Cheng) swoops to the rescue and the good guys take to the hills. Nameless informs Cloud and Wind that they're going to have to level up to defeat Lord Godless, and while he helps Cloud invent a new style of sword-fu, Wind is sent off to learn Evil Power from Lord Wicked.

With special effects layered so heavily they transform battles into dreamy, psychedelic abstractions, even the actors are digitally enhanced as Evil Power turns Wind into a brooding goth dreamboat that not even TWILIGHT's Edward Cullen can rival. Swords are so powerful they cut the weather in half, ultimate weapons are made from the spinal columns of dead gods and everything ends on a note of rock opera tragedy. What other summer blockbuster concludes with the hero traumatized and wounded, raving "Why didn't you kill me?!?" A happy ending? Happy endings are for sissies.

Won the 2009 Hong Kong Film Award for "Best Visual Effects."

AsianCineFest Review:

First, a couple of positive thoughts. There will certainly be those who'll really enjoy this supernatural martial arts fantasy which is based on the hit Hong Kong comic series Storm Riders by Wing Shing Ma. And many of the special CG effects are indeed top-notch.

On the other hand, I myself didn't care for the film much at all. The "story line"is really thin, even for this sort of fare, from which one doesn't tend to expect much. The directing is uninspired, which seems to be the way the Pang Brothers have been going lately, as in 2008's Bangkok Dangerous.

For me there wasn't any evidence of actual "acting" by anyone on the screen. And we all know that even when doing a film based on a comic book (or a video game, for that matter), and even when working in front of a green screen, it's still possible to "emote." I just didn't see any evidence of it here.

So overall I really can't recommend the film, which is a successor to 1998's The Storm Riders. (There's a Storm Warriors III currently in production, for which I don't hold out much hope of redemption.) But if supernatural martial art films are your thing, or if you simply can't miss seeing Aaron Kwok (Cloud) or Ekin Cheng (Wind), feel free to give it a try. You very well may enjoy it.

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