With Shock Wave and Love Off the Cuff, Hong Kong filmmakers are fighting for another day at the China box office
Classic over-the-top Hong Kong action film Shock Wave a surprise hit with Chinese film-goers, along with movies from Pang Ho-cheung and Peter Chan, showing Hong Kong filmmakers still have a shot at winning in China
On paper, Shock Wave bears all the hallmarks of classic Hong Kong cops-and-robbers blockbusters from the past. There’s the heroic police officer, played by Andy Lau Tak-wah, who’s ready to sacrifice himself to save the day, with naive sidekicks and a weepy girlfriend in tow. And then there’s the invariably over-the-top action sequences, the set piece being a literally explosive showdown inside the Cross Harbour Tunnel.
And then there’s the villain. Up against the courageous, righteous Hong Kong police officers is a brutal criminal from China who goes to incredible extremes in wreaking havoc in the city. Jiang Wu’s antagonist looks like a pale, simplistic and inhuman archetype light years away from the more nuanced felons who gatecrashed Hong Kong’s capitalist party in Johnny Mak Tong-hung’s seminal 1984 crime thriller Long Arm of the Law .
Given the festering antipathy between people from China and Hong Kong in recent years, director Herman Yau Lai-to’s choice of antagonist would seem bound to raise hackles up north. Surprisingly, audiences in China have chosen to swallow the whole thing with glee and perhaps indifference.
Released in China on April 28, Shock Wave was the breakout hit there during the May Day holidays.
Having outperformed Leste Chen Zhengdao’s psychological thriller Battle of Memories – which boasts a stellar cast of Huang Bo, Xu Jinglei and Du Yihong – Yau’s film became the top-grossing Chinese-language title of the week, having already taken 265.8 million yuan (HK$300 million, US$38.5 million) by Wednesday.
Of the commenters on Chinese film news and ticketing portal Mtime.com, hardly any questioned the origin of Shock Wave’s villain. While the odd detractor frowns at the film’s illogical narrative and paper-thin characterisations, most commenters praise Yau and his producer-star Lau for having delivered a more than serviceable slice of Hong Kong genre cinema. After all the bad blood and boycotts of recent years, all seems forgiven.
Indeed, Hong Kong filmmakers have had a triumphant week in China. As well as Shock Wave, Pang Ho-cheung’s Love Off the Cuff also did well, with takings of more than 130 million yuan; its sole actor from China, Jiang Mengjie, plays a libertine whose presence threatens the marital bond of the film’s leading Hong Kong couple.
Meanwhile, there’s the romantic comedy This Is Not What I Expected , which has already taken more than 160 million yuan. Admittedly it is set in China and stars the award-winning Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu, seen recently in Soul Mate .
Just as importantly, the film was produced by Peter Chan Ho-sun, directed by Hong Kong editor Derek Hui Wang-yu, and features production and costume designs by veteran Hong Kong professionals Ben Luk Man-wah and Dora Ng Lei-lo. Hong Kong filmmakers, it seems, will live to fight another day – with or without villains from China threatening to blow up city landmarks.