From 1978 to 1995, Hong Kong cinema was vastly superior to Hollywood in terms of martial arts and stunt-work. Even Jade Leung agrees that 1995 was the end of a good time. 1996 was the last solid (if not classic) year because 1997 was when H.K. was taken over by China. Because H.K. was a British colony, many film-makers would have benefited from making films set in Britain instead of fleeing from the land of the free. It was fresh terrain for the fearful home audience, but one which was familiar to the Chinese emigrants who saw England-based H.K. films such as Banana Cop and Killer’s Romance.
Before the website owner experienced personal grief, Kung Fu Cinema had a fantastic forum (Kung Fu Fandom) where so much could be learned about the past, present and future of H.K. movies. Most people seem to be looking forward to the recent releases, whereas there is one person who is like myself. This is what he had to say on the forum (the problems which he mentions are in bold):
“I don’t watch HK action movies made after 1996, bar a few. HK action movies are rubbish now, for me. I don’t like sync sound dialogue. I don’t like CGI. I don’t like all the wire use for the simplest stunts and movements. I don’t like the crystal clear digital-looking image, which makes the movies look like they were shot on digital video cameras meant for TV shows. I like it when film looks like film. How it used to, before all of this digital nonsense came into fashion. Don’t like the sound FX of today’s films either. The punches and kicks either sound too Hollywood or too realistic. I want the old-school smashing and bashing SFX. When people get excited over new HK action films coming out, I don’t get it.”
Wong Jing asked (via the media) H.K.’s biggest stars to lower their salaries. This was because of 1997 being worse than 1996. 1998 saw Sandra Ng deny having a pay cut to save the bad market. She admitted:
“The biggest prices of the stars are like seafood prices in that they can go up and down. Whenever the movie market is weak, even a diamond cast couldn’t bring people into the theaters. You could remake The Seven Samurai with the stars being Andy, the two Chows, the two Tonys and the two A-list martial arts movie stars whose names begin with J but you would get a box office result that’s smaller than H.K.$ 30 million.”
Francis Ng (who was in Jing’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Star) explained his reason for refusing to back down from having a pay cut:
“I feel that pay cuts should be for those who are getting paid millions in Hong Kong currency. I think actors who are popular singers should decrease their asking prices because, before Hong Kong lost its British identity, I learned that the average person in England annually survives on the equivalent of H.K.$ 402k. I see myself as an actor instead of a star, so Jing’s demand is not relevant to me.”
Andy Lau had this to say:
“My contract with China Star pays a monthly salary, so Jing’s request doesn’t affect me at all. For the others, I feel that there is room to negotiate in terms of salary, as long as everyone is sincere.”
Sandra made the most impressive compliment:
“If a script is extremely good, I can work for free. Sometimes it depends on how much the production cost is. I wouldn’t ask for a killer price if the production is small.”
Anita Mui proved to be more of a diva than other actresses:
“Lower my salary? No way! Salary is a value. How much of a cut are you talking about? If salary can be lowered just like that, I’d lose a lot of respect. At most, I will say I won’t add and then use other methods to compensate, like a bonus when the film hits a certain mark in the box office. If it doesn’t make the mark then there is no bonus. Taking bonuses is why Hollywood won’t allow for creative freedom. Otherwise, film salaries should not be reduced!”
Jacklyn Wu (from Jing’s God of Gamblers Returns) follows a similar example to Sandra:
“I already am reducing my salary. I hope that money can go into the production. However, I do have a bottom line, at least it’s a 10% cut.”
Sean Lau proves to be a historian:
“I feel that there was a need for that a long time ago, so I didn’t raise my salary for two years. I also have taken pay cuts; I even cut as much as half price for one movie.”
Jing claims that H.K. cinema was impeded by the film studios ignoring the investors from Taiwan (i.e. who were either Taiwanese or just happened to be based there), but the stars are as much to blame for the mess. They were burying their heads in the sand because they were hoping that Hollywood would bring forth greener pastures. Back to the first actress mentioned in the article, Jade Leung told Art Black in #41 of Asian Cult Cinema (circa 2003):
“From 1995 on, most companies did not want to put money into one girl only. The economy of the world is going downhill. In the old days, my movies could be sold to Korea. Since Korean productions have been improving, they don’t need to import many movies. Before 1995, we could sell our movies to the rest of Asia for over 10 million Hong Kong dollars. After 1995, other Asian countries could not afford to buy our movies anymore. Therefore, it became a domino effect. Producers could not afford to have one actress dominate a movie.”
Things have changed like rock, paper and scissors. Korea is the rock which broke H.K. but the Mainland is the paper which covers Korea. So much funding comes from the Mainland now because it’s a bigger country than Taiwan. Jade should’ve been cast as Madame M in Naked Weapon as a way of coming full circle after starring in Black Cat, which predated Naked Killer as a La Femme Nikita remake. Since Ellen Chan is three years older, Jade as Madame Rose would’ve been the better temptress in Naked Soldier.
Naked Killer (1992) is better than Black Cat (1991) but the latter is superior to Murders Made to Order (1993). The Canadian TV series, La Femme Nikita, is better than Point of No Return (the latter was made during a time when it was trendy for Hollywood to remake French films). The U.S. TV series was a pointless reboot instead of what could’ve been a worthwhile (unique) interpretation (an R-rated show on HBO). History has proven me right because the first TV series lasted for 5 seasons instead of 4. Ironically, Maggie Q was considered for the title role of Nikita because of Naked Weapon.