The Gory Details: 26 Francis Ng 吳鎮宇 Movies in 4 Weeks

December 19, 2008 at 2:50 am 14 comments

infernal-affairs2

Francis Ng as a naughty triad boss, Infernal Affairs II

In response to some of you who have asked me to elaborate on the 26 Francis Ng movies I watched in four weeks, here are some bullet reviews of them. As a bit of background, many of you know that I’ve got a thing for Hong Kong films and that in 1997 I made an experimental documentary called Beyond Asiaphilia that outlined my love for Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li and other HK movie kings. At that time I was seeing about 3-4 HK movies a week, almost all in Bay Area movie theaters such as the Great Star, the World, the 4-Star and the UC Theater. All of those but the 4-Star have since shut down and, since the 1997 handover and economic crisis, the HK movie industry is a shadow of its former self. Hong Kong used to produce upwards of 300 films per year–today its output is around 50-100 films.

Francis Ng swaggers into the Golden Horse Awards, 2006

Francis Ng swaggers into the Golden Horse Awards, 2006

Because of this, and because my first daughter was born in 2000, my HK movie viewing declined steeply. I still managed to keep up with the latest Johnny To and Wong Kar-Wai films but most of the HK film scene passed me by.
Hence I was unaware of the rise of Francis Ng as a leading man, which started to take place around 1999 when he won several Best Actor awards for films such as The Mission, Bullets Over Summer, and 2000 AD.

When I was watching HK movies in the mid-nineties, I knew Francis Ng mostly for his quirky character work in movies like Young & Dangerous. Seeing his body of work this month, from films made after 2000, made me realize that he has grown far beyond those roles as an actor and as a movie star.

But apparently what pushed Francis into HK idol stardom was his role in the hit HK television drama Triumph In The Skies, where he played an upstanding, straitlaced airline pilot.

I’m not sure exactly what spurred this past month’s obsessive viewing of so many Francis Ng movies but he’s so good and watchable in almost everything he’s in, and he’s made so many movies, that it wasn’t hard to find several of them to watch.

Wacky Francis and bra, Crazy 'n' the City, 2005

Wacky Francis and bra, Crazy ‘n’ the City, 2005

He’s also grown into his face in the past 10 years and, depending on the movie and the hairstyle, can be ridiculously good-looking or insanely strange.

He’s blessed with a fine, photogenic bone structure, and has a mobile, expressive face and an agile grace that makes him a perfect screen performer.

Cross-eyed Francis, Juliet In Love, 1999

Cross-eyed Francis, Juliet In Love, 1999

His eyes are also just slightly crossed, which adds an odd, somewhat feline quality to his looks.

Viewing note: Some of these films are available on Netflix; many others you can get from the San Francisco Public Library. You can also stream several of them on youtube or on crunchyroll, though the image quality is compromised. Several more are available on Chinese-language streaming sites, but without English subs. You can also find torrent streams galore if that’s your thing.
Statistics: Out of 26 movies viewed
Number of times Francis plays a triad: 13
Number of times Francis plays a cop: 2
Number of movies in which Francis dies: 14
Number of times Francis gets the girl: 10
The best–watch these first.
  1. The Mission–Francis in feral, intense mode. Great movie which also stars Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung, & Lam Suet as hard-guy bodyguards to a timid mob boss.
  2. Exiled–Francis as one of a group of cool hired guns. Reunites most of the cast from The Mission with brilliant director Johnny To.
  3. Infernal Affairs 2–Prequel to Infernal Affairs. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, especially Francis’s amazing, low-key performance as a reluctant Triad boss. Compare this to The Mission and some of Francis’s other OTT performances and you’ll see his fantastic range & versatility.
  4. Juliet In Love–my favorite. A wonderful, emotional, sad and beautiful story. Francis plays a none-too-bright, aimless hoodlum who finds love and redemption from an unlikely source.
  5. Full Alert–Francis as a complex bad guy in a cat & mouse game with Lau Ching Wan. Intense and haunting Ringo Lam movie.

Good:

  1. Too Many Ways To Be #1–weird but fun alternative timeline triad movie.
  2. Shiver–great, naturalistic Francis performance but he’s got terrible orange hair and a pathetic mustache
  3. Bullets Over Summer–Francis as a lonely cop in a subtle and emotional performance. Same director, Wilson Yip, as Juliet In Love.
  4. On The Edge–Francis in a supporting role as a sympathetic triad boss. He could’ve sleepwalked through it but actually puts in a worthy effort
  5. Wo Hu–another Triad boss supporting role–funny & complex
  6. Colour of the Truth–Francis is only in the first ten minutes or so, yet again as Triad boss, but makes a great impression. His scene with Anthony Wong & Lau Ching Wan is a textbook example of incredible ensemble acting.
  7. Love Trilogy–Charming romantic comedy with Francis and Anita Yuen as a bickering married couple. One of the few movies where he doesn’t die horribly.
  8. Fantasia–hilarious HK comedy, with Lau Ching Wan, Jordan Chan, Louis Koo, the Twins, Cecilia Chung & many others. Ridiculous and funny.
  9. Crazy ‘n’ The City–Francis shows his range again as a mentally ill man who falls in love. Bad hair day for him, though.
  10. Young and Dangerous–Ugly Kwan! So funny, especially the growly voice, the bangs, the goatee, and the orange clothes. And so much more fun to watch than the wooden Ekin Cheng. No wonder Kwan got his own spinoff series (Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 1 & 2).

Bad:

  1. Curse of Lola–Francis channels Tony Leung Chi-Wai, but even he can’t save the dreadful & pretentious script.
  2. The Closet–WTF? Wannabe Ring & Ju-On clone. Francis does some neat magic tricks & bonds with a cute kid.
  3. Shamo–another supporting part, this time in an ultraviolent manga adaptation. Francis is cool but the movie is pretty unwatchable. Thank god for fast forward.
  4. Karmic Mah Jong–the only movie I couldn’t finish it was so bad. Pointless & obtuse, and Francis has an especially unflattering haircut in it.

Indifferent:

  1. One Last Dance–A cool Francis performance in a muddled movie. Might be better the second time around. Classic scene with hostages, plastic wrap, scotch tape and a fork.
  2. Bullet & Brain–very dumb Wong Jing movie with funny & cool performances by Francis & Anthony Wong. Watching Francis strut and pose is of course lots of fun (bonus points for also looking very hot doing it). Just fast forward over anything without him or Anthony in it.
  3. Legal Innocence–really really creepy & disturbing Category 3 movie about a gruesome true-crime HK murder involving a love triangle and a body decomposed in acid. Francis is great but unsettling. Cecilia Yip  & Anthony Wong also turn in good performances.
  4. Beauty and the Breast–actually a pretty funny and entertaining movie, if you’re not too demanding. Francis is hilarious as the office lothario who gets his commuppance (hint: it involves prosthetic mammaries). Just try to imagine Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt taking a part like this & you’ll understand what makes HK films special.
  5. Gen-X Cops–Ridiculous film starring popstar prettyboys as undercover cops. Francis lights up the screen as yet another Triad–unfortunately he buys the farm (again) by the middle of the movie, but not before delivering a profane and hilarious final speech, in English, though he obviously didn’t speak the language well at the time. Despite this, he makes it one of the highlights of an otherwise predictable and idiotic movie.
  6. A Man Called Hero–Francis plays a Japanese swordmaster bent on world domination. He has a CGI duel Anthony Wong as a Chinese martial arts sage and as well as a climactic battle with wooden man Ekin Cheng atop the Statue of Liberty (don’t ask).
  7. Deadly Delicious–Francis plays a philandering husband who suffers a horrible revenge from his pissed-off wife. Involves lethal doses of shrimp and other Chinese delicacies.

Yet to see:
A War Named Desire
Bakery Amour
Once Upon A Time in Triad Society 1 & 2
HK Triad
The White Dragon
Dancing Lion

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Entry filed under: francis ng, hong kong, johnnie to, movies, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

the birthday present three more francis ng movies

14 Comments Add your own

  • […] is always a good price and I can attest to crunchyroll’s addictive quality–it enabled my Francis Ng binge from last month and I was able to watch at least a dozen of his movies, including a couple not yet […]

    Reply
  • […] Edison) so in honor of reaching that milestone I’m posting some gratuitous pictures of the reason I started blogging in the first place. So here’s a recent publicity still from Chasing Shadows, Francis Ng’s upcoming wuxia […]

    Reply
  • 3. Marie  |  October 2, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for rating and giving capsule reviews for so many of Francis Ng’s movies. It has finally gotten through to me what a fine actor (and hunkaliscious man) he is. Now, given that he works in HK and is prolific, I know that there are more than a few stinkers in the bunch. Thanks for saving me the time and trouble by identifying those and pointing me in the direction of the better to excellent ones. He definitely has joined my pantheon of beloved HK actors. I only wish HK could get its act together and produce something as fine as Infernal Affairs I and II or The Mission/Exiled/Election and give those fine boys some material worthy of their talent. I don’t see Wong Kar Wai working with the Francis Ngs, Anthony Wongs or Lau Ching Wans, and Johnny To seems to be in a fallow patch right now (though we know he’ll do something amazing sooner rather than later, just not this year). Such an embarrassment of riches, all these mature actors in the 40s, and so few movies that take advantage of what they have to offer. Pass me a tissue, I think I’m going to cry.

    Reply
    • 4. valeriesoe  |  October 5, 2009 at 3:33 pm

      Hey Marie,
      Glad to be of service! I totally agree that the talents of Lau Ching-Wan, Anthony Wong & Francis are being squandered. It’s hard because, like most movie industries, HK cinema is market-driven and a.) the market is way down and b.) the market is youth-driven. So “actors” like Nic Tse and Jay Chou are much more in demand than the abovementioned trio. Although rumor has it that all three have been cast in an upcoming Dante Lam movie, Most Wanted Assassin, so we’ll see if that pans out. I’m hoping it does because Francis, Anthony & LCW together in one movie is pretty much a dream come true for me.

      BTW, I checked out your blog on alivenotdead–good stuff. I love Leslie Cheung, too. I can’t help feeling that he’d have a hard time getting parts these days, too, although he always had his singing career to fall back on. Which our three boys mentioned above don’t have, alas.

      Reply
  • 5. Helena  |  March 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Loved this post (and Francis Ng) I am a (recent) fan of HK movies, particularly featuring actors of the LCW, Anthony Wong generation, and Francis Ng has a very special place in my heart. Thanks for sorting the crap from the cream, and helping me make further good Francis Ng based movie choices. The UK is not particularly attuned to HK film and I need all the help I can get to find the good stuff. Recently watched Juliet in Love and I can’t bear to watch it again, it’s so sad, even tho I actually want to. Here’s to a glorious bunch of actors and filmmakers – long may they continue to work at their peak. And thanks for the great blog.

    Reply
    • 6. valeriesoe  |  March 23, 2010 at 7:04 am

      Hi Helena,

      Thanks for the kind words—always happy to be of service! I think I need to post a new list of the subsequent 30 or so Francis Ng movies I’ve watched since writing that entry last year. Will try to get to it soonest–

      re: Juliet In Love. I know exactly what you mean. It’s one of the only films that has ever made me cry, and I’m a heartless beyotch. Plus Francis looks ridiculously hot in it–

      Reply
  • 7. Jessica  |  March 26, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Hi Valerie,
    Thank you for putting together all NG’s movies and the fantastic details. I love particularly your comment on Yau in Internal Affairs II being a RELUCTANT triad boss. Reluctant is the word I have been trying to find to depict NG’s performance in that great film.

    And my favorite is Juliet in Love, too. :D.

    Reply
    • 8. valeriesoe  |  March 29, 2010 at 5:42 am

      Hi Jessica,

      I just watched IA2 again last night & realized that Hau’s biggest flaw was his utter devotion to his family. He spent most of the movie trying to avenge his father’s murder, which ultimately lead to his downfall. The rest of the time he was trying to legitimize the family business, which again was his downfall. So, yeah, reluctance is a big factor in his role as the dai lo, since he’s really only doing it for his family, the good filial son that he is. Of course he goes around the bend at some point, but if he didn’t there wouldn’t be a movie.

      Thanks for the comment! I’m going to try to post about the next 30 or so Francis Ng movies I’ve watched since this entry sometime in the near future.

      v.

      Reply
  • 9. Lannie  |  April 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you very much for your blog – saves me having to go through a hundred Francis Ng movies to get to the good ones. Ironically, I only began to take notice of Francis Ng after watching Tracing Shadows (which wasn’t a great movie apart from him). I have since embarked on a Francis Ng-movie-watching-spree which even included all 40 episodes of TITS, based on your recommendation (loved it). Look forward to more posts.

    Reply
    • 10. valeriesoe  |  May 8, 2010 at 6:28 am

      Hi Lannie,
      Thanks so much! I just posted an entry with 36 more Francis movies so check it out. Glad you liked TITS! It’s a great little drama.

      v.

      Reply
  • […] Since my Francis Ng movie-watching marathon 18 months ago I’ve scoured the universe trying to watch other every Francis movie I could find. Herein follows another 33 films and 3 dramas that I was able to locate, with bullet reviews of each flick. Although I’m still less than 50% through his 120 (mas o menos) movies, my viewing pace has slowed down quite a bit, since the remainder of his films are either out-of-press or only available unsubbed on Chinese-language streaming sites. Luckily our dear Francis is still actively making new movies and he’s got a couple due out this year, Fierce West Wind and The Warring States, which are both big budget Mainland Chinese productions, so I’ve got something to look forward to. Here’s hoping for 120 more Francis movies in the future. […]

    Reply
  • 12. Francesca  |  August 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you! ♥ Here’s hoping for 120000 more Francis movies…& books in the future. […]

    Reply
    • 13. valeriesoe  |  August 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

      It’s my pleasure–thanks for letting me share my obsession!

      Reply
  • 14. What A Day For A Birthday « beyondasiaphilia  |  December 20, 2011 at 7:35 am

    […] (along with a nice cash prize that will ease the pain a bit in the coming year). Although I didn’t start out writing about visual arts or activism those topics have become pretty significant elements in the blog, so it’s great to get some […]

    Reply

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