Ten commandments

In a 2001 issue (#23) of Giant Robot, Wong Jing explained why he has yet to make a Hollywood film. A film’s failure can affect the financing of his Hong Kong films. He also stated that John Woo is the only H.K. film director to have real success. Wong claimed that John was one of ten H.K. directors who made U.S. films. There is a difference between a film that is financed by a U.S. studio and a Chinese film which takes place in the West.

No Retreat, No Surrender (featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme) is not a Hollywood movie despite having a primarily U.S. cast and crew. Similarly, Mr. Nice Guy (a Jackie Chan movie directed by Sammo Hung) is not an Australian movie despite having a primarily Australian cast and crew. All of these movies were recorded in English. Enter the Dragon, despite having a primarily Chinese cast, crew and setting, is a Hollywood-financed production.

Despite Jing’s reticence, his best friend made a sojourn to the U.S. His name is Andrew Lau. His roles as producer and cinematographer made him a ghost director of Jing’s The Last Tycoon. The featured image of my article is a still from The Flock (a.k.a. Hunted). It stars Richard Gere and Claire Danes. It has a cameo courtesy of Avril Lavigne. Andrew was hired because Martin Scorsese remade Infernal Affairs and thanked him in his Oscar speech.

Jing’s interview may be seen as slightly dated given the above-average box office success of Ronny Yu’s Freddy vs. Jason. Alas, the latter’s career was short-lived as he became automatically associated with horror. His other Hollywood movie was Bride of Chucky. However, he had done two English language movies which were not horror movies – Warriors of Virtue and The 51st State (retitled as Formula 51). Regardless, these two movies were clunkers.

Bride of Chucky was his Hollywood début, although his U.S. début was Warriors of Virtue. Corey Yuen’s Hollywood début was DOA: Dead or Alive, although his U.S. début was No Retreat, No Surrender. My article is about H.K. directors who made U.S. débuts which succumb to one of the ten commandments. Because of their Hollywood débuts, Corey’s No Retreat, No Surrender and Ronny’s Warriors of Virtue won’t count in this instance.

Let’s pretend those movies did. If Corey’s 1986 début (which was released in Japan as Cinderella Boy) was produced by Cannon (who produced a slew of low-budget martial arts movies such as Enter the Ninja, American Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Kickboxer and Cyborg), it would be more guilty of breaking the second commandment – do not create a graven image. The hero is a Bruce Lee fan who imagines him as a teacher who only he can see.

If Ronny’s 1997 début was a Disney movie then it would be guilty of breaking the tenth commandment – do not covet what is not yours. Bride of Chucky, on the other hand, is guilty of creating a graven image. It had passable box office success (it did okay enough to warrant a final theatrically released sequel). DOA: Dead of Alive made Corey the least profitable H.K. director, thus no more H-wood débuts from H.K.

Corey’s début broke the fourth commandment – keep the Sabbath holy. The way that the Buddha was used means that any Sabbath was not holy. Andrew Lau’s The Flock was made in late 2005, reshot by a U.S. director in 2006, released to foreign cinemas in 2007 (to predict how well that it would do in U.S. cinemas) before the demotion to U.S. DVD in 2008. It broke the third commandment – don’t say the lord’s name in vain.

The person who replaced Corey as Seasonal’s director and fight choreographer decided to work under the alias of Lucas Lo. His birth name is Lo Yuen-Ming. He made his nom de guerre become less Chinese by changing it to Lucas Lowe. No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers broke the fifth commandment – honour your father and mother. One is murdered, the other is mysteriously absent (not even mentioned). The movie went direct-to-video.

In an interview for a Bruce Lee website, Bey Logan mentioned the last time that he had heard from Ng. The latter was directing a U.S. film. I checked his IMDB profile, there was nothing. Pardon the pun, but lo and behold – Lucas Lowe had directed Diaries of Darkness (Shannon Tweed starred in this 2000 thriller). This would be Lo Yuen-Ming’s last U.S. directorial feature. He went on to produce The Black Door (2001).

Tsui Hark’s Double Team (a box office bomb which featured Mickey Rourke) broke the first commandment – do not worship other Gods. The monks in the movie were seen as being more devoted to computers than churches, hence why they were cyber-monks. I won’t spoil the plot because it’s too good to give away, but Peter Chan’s The Love Letter (a flop co-starring Tom Selleck and Ellen DeGeneres) broke the tenth commandment.

Leung Po-Chi’s Cabin by the Lake (a Judd Nelson TV movie which was made in 1999) broke the sixth commandment – don’t kill. Unlike Lau, Leung never had a U.S. movie which even enjoyed a limited cinema release in the U.S. despite being a superior director. Ringo Lam’s Maximum Risk (a minimum risk flop co-leading Natasha Henstridge) broke the seventh commandment – don’t commit adultery (albeit she played the fiancée of a twin brother).

Kirk Wong’s The Big Hit (starring Mark Wahlberg) was made in 1996 and shelved in 1997 before being released in 1998. It was moderately profitable i.e. it had the sort of commercial outcome which gets a small cult following instead of major fanfare. It’s one of those movies which comes and goes without causing much paranoia among competitors. I won’t give away how, but it had a plot point which involved breaking the ninth commandment – do not lie.

Stanley Tong’s Mr. Magoo was made and released in 1997. Leslie Nielsen was miscast (Gene Hackman should’ve starred). It was a minor B.O. dud. It broke the eighth commandment – do not steal. The narrative should’ve been like a Rube Goldberg scenario instead of being a second-rate Bond-esque movie where Kelly Lynch played a character whose names were Marvel-ish alliterations. A better title would’ve been Casualties of Causalities.

What Jing didn’t know was that there were already eleven H.K. directors before he was interviewed for Giant Robot in 2001. There is a director by the name of Godfrey Ho who Jing wouldn’t know because he didn’t direct movies which got released in cinemas. Also, Godfrey isn’t part of Jing’s social circle. Unlike Wong Kar-Wai (who is one Jing’s friends), Godfrey never made movies with big stars. His U.S. début (as Godfrey Hall) was Undefeatable (1993).

To add to the dissension, Tony Leung Siu-Hung directed Superfights in 1995. To be fair on Jing, he may have been referring to Tony as one of the ten. This would mean disregarding Lucas, since he wasn’t already a director but rather a glorified errand boy whose main purpose in H.K. was to act as a continuity checker. His assistance for Seasonal’s Walk on Fire (1988) somehow made him qualifiable, but even Lo Wei was a better selection because of his claim to fame.

After everything that’s been typed, it would be easy to perceive Andrew as the twelfth H.K. director to make a U.S. movie. However, his début is the fourteenth. In 2002, Tony Ching (mostly known among fans as Ching Siu-Tung) directed a Steven Seagal movie titled Belly of the Beast. In 2006, the Pang brothers directed Kristen Stewart in The Messengers.

The sixteenth instance was Andrew Loo (who co-directed a 2005 H.K. movie titled It Had to Be You). He made his U.S. début co-directing Andrew Lau’s Revenge of the Green Dragons (featuring Ray Liotta and executively produced by Martin Scorsese). Loo also co-produced The Flock. This is what he had to say about Lau’s forced leave: “He had creative differences with Philippe Martinez and Elie Samaha (the producers). Richard was always on our (the other Andrew’s) side, but they were determined to make more of a slasher/exploitation film. In the end, we came in under budget by a million dollars thinking we would add a few scenes after the assembly cut but we were never given the chance. It could have been a really nice film.”

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