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Review Ballistic Kiss a.k.a. Sat sat yan, tiu tiu mo (1998) and Drunken Tai Chi a.k.a. Siu Tai Gik (1984)

genre: action, martial arts, gun fu

Even for a Hong Kong action flick, Ballistic Kiss is very confusing. I guess Donnie Yen tried to be clever and up the ante with style and choreography that is a little different from his usual stuff. Nothing wrong with that if it actually pays off. Instead, we get one big mess where it's very hard to make out the ass kicking. 

As a huge martial arts fan, you would think I would prefer hand-to-hand combat over gun play. And yes, before John Woo this was very true. Ever since, I am also a huge fan of heroic bloodshed and everything gun fu when done right. So naturally, I was all on board for Donnie Yen to make his own bloodshed film. In all honestly, there are some inventive and creative gun play scenes. No question. But, and this is a very big but. You don't get to witness the brilliance since the cameraman couldn't follow the action. To make matters worse. The editor also was out of his depth and keeps cutting away from the action instead of focussing the good stuff. And if that wasn't enough, the odd choice of having most of the action take place in darkness with poor lighting is beyond me. I get that this could be due to a low budget. Still, I have seen Hong Kong do much more with much less.

Then there is the story. Trust me, I don't want to talk about it. I really dislike being forced to. For some reason, there was a trend in Hong Kong to have these supposed edgy and fatalistic romantic love stories incorporated in almost everything you can think of. Only the most brilliant directors could do something worthwhile with that notion. While Donnie Yen certainly is a master in the industry. Back then, he certainly didn't have the directing experience to make that happen. So what you are left with is a love story without romance and all that goodness that comes with romance. Donnie's character Cat and female cop don't even know each other for them to be lovers. It's completely baffling. 

Look, I really wished I could say that Ballistic Kiss is worth your while. But to be honest, it's complete rubbish. Even the most hardcore fans of Donnie Yen and heroic bloodshed won't get much fun out of this. 

genre: martial arts, comedy

Drunken Tai Chi is Donnie Yen's debut film and immediately one of the best he has ever made. It's no wonder since both the direction and action choreography is done by the one and only Yuen Woo Ping. A true winning combination if you ask me.

Granted, this early Donnie Yen film suffers from what the early Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan films had been featuring, but here it's even less sophisticated. And with that I mean a lot of random goofiness and silly antics I have learned to get used to. Tonally, this film is a comedy. But for example, there is one major dramatic event in the film that could and should have changed the tone and become a more serious affair. It would have vastly improved the viewing experience. Instead, you have Yen's character barely registering or reacting to what has happened and going through with his comedic antics. It kind of breaks the immersion a little. Just a little. 

Since the martial arts and the stunt work throughout the film is insane. Basically, the film is a collection of several random fight and stunt scenes tied together through a super thin narrative. Quite effectively! There are many stand out moments. But the most memorable is the puppeteer scene, where Donnie Yen showcases his breakdancing skills. Truly remarkable! Certainly a must-watch!

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