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Hong Kong is a major cultural force when it comes to producing some real cinematic magic.
The region, located in South China, is one of the most densely populated places globally, and has a long history of being a hub of creative energy. Whilst the coastal city has been known to manufacture movies from a wide-range of genres, it’s built up a world-class reputation for its stellar outpouring of amazing action films. This is because they’re full of hard-hitting punch-ups, acrobatic gunfights, crazed car chases and the constant cat and mouse chase between cops and criminals.
With there being so many of these action movies out there though, we thought we’d narrow them down to the ones that are the cream of the crop; the true must-see Hong Kong movies for all you action aficionados out there.
So, let’s dive right into these excitement fuelled extravaganzas.
It would be truly criminal to have a list of legendary Hong Kong action movies and not have a single John Woo entry. The massively influential filmmaker has been revolutionising the action genre since back in the 1970’s. His highly-stylised barrage of thrilling brilliance has even seen him be given the keys to Hollywood, where he worked with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta on 1997’s Face/Off and Tom Cruise on 1999’s Mission: Impossible 2.
The title we’ve chosen from his vastly impressive output though, is 1989’s The Killer. The madcap movie stars Woo’s constant collaborator, Chow Yun-fat, as a hardened assassin who accidentally injures a celebrated nightclub singer during a hit gone wrong. This, then, results in him having to take on an almost suicidal last contract, to try and earn enough money to gift the singer with a life-saving operation.
This movie’s Chinese title translates to ‘pair of blood-splattering heroes’ and it’s an extremely apt way of describing what transpires in its 110-minute runtime. There’s a seemingly infinite amount of bullets being sprayed, and so many beautifully choreographed shootouts, that it will make your head-spin in the best possible way.
This 1998 flick from esteemed director Wong Jing is a high-stakes affair that will delight everyone, but will be a particularity enjoyable watch for fans of gambling. The Conman has a plot that revolves around a renowned card shark, played by Andy Lau, who gets sent to jail for murdering a gangster during an underground card game.
When he’s released half-a-decade later, he finds his family gone and his victim’s brother seeking him out for revenge. What follows next is a rollercoaster ride that involves lots of action, tinged with just the right amount of comedic relief. Lau’s character lives up to the title of the movie, as he’s forced to cook up an elaborate gambling scheme that will enable him to get his life back on track.
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Jackie Chan just might be Hong Kong’s biggest cinematic icon and its greatest export. Since he began his epic journey into movies way back in the 1960’s, Chan has become famed across the entire globe for his wacky action antics. Interestingly, he was discovered by the same producer that found Bruce Lee, the late Raymond Chow.
In most of Chan’s movies, he amazingly performs all of his own ludicrous stunts, which will leave your jaw on the floor when watching the chaos unfold on screen. This is expertly put on display in 1985’s Police Story, which was also co-written and directed by the Hong Kong star.
Some of the action set-pieces that take place in the movie are still astounding nearly 40 years on, with the standout pieces being Chang hanging onto a speeding bus for dear life, or his monumental slide down a massive pole that’s littered with electric lights.