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_ (1994)
1941 Hong Kong on Fire

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003

Like many movies associated with Wong Jing, it's kind of hard to pinpoint what exactly 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is attempting to do. At times, it's a light romantic comedy, but in others, it's some of the sleaziest exploitation action this reviewer has ever seen. Usually, for some inexplicable reason, Wong's movies can usually pull this kind of schizophrenia off, but 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is ultimately let down by a lackluster script and poor direction.

1941 Hong Kong on Fire tells the story of a family affected by the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during World War II. The movie begins with an interesting approach, using interviews and newsreel footage to set up the story, but this more serious, documentary-like approach is let down by some very dopey comedy. In fact, the first half-hour or so is much more of a family "dramedy" rather than the usual blood and boobs one expects from Wong Jing. But all of that changes in one scene. A guy comes in and announces "the Japanese devils are coming", and sure enough, within thirty seconds, they kick in the doors and proceed to rape and kill everyone.

This exact same process is repeated a couple more times during the movie -- despite its' fluffy beginnings, 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is definitely not for the squeamish. Those not put off by the rape scenes will most likely be disgusted by the torture scenes, the most brutal of which involves force-feeding a man chili peppers and then slicing open his engorged stomach. I'm sure that these sorts of atrocities did go on during the war, but the movie takes an almost gleeful approach to the despicable actions, and the film becomes a bit cheap and tawdry as a result.

Still, there are some good things about 1941 Hong Kong on Fire. Despite the uneven script, most of the actors do a good job, especially Chingmy Yau. Fans of her will really like her work in this movie, as she goes from doe-eyed romantic to seductress and killer. And yes, I will admit to getting a certain thrill from the exploitative bits. It's hard-hitting and brutal, but it's also something you would never see in an American movie -- and isn't that why most of us gweilos got into HK movies in the first place? Despite its' problems, 1941 Hong Kong on Fire offers up enough of the classic Wong Jing goods to make it worth a viewing -- just make sure to keep some Pepto Bismol handy for some of the saucier bits.

Reviewed by: adrianpen
Date: 01/16/2003
Summary: great hk film about ww2 from civilian/women's perspective

Highly recommended film for those interested in the issue of the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong
The film is told from the perspective of two sisters Veronica Yip and Chingmy Yau who suffer rape, torture, etc at the hands of the Japanese invaders. It is a great film as the suffering of civilians (in particular women) during the Japanese invasion of Asia from 1937-1945 is rarely focused on in Hong Kong and Western films alike. The issue of rape is also rarely touched in other films about WW2 whereas there is plenty of short rape scenes(no nudity at all so safe for children too!) in this film. Veronica Yip steals the show with her good performance here as the innocent traditional girl who sacrifices heself for the family. Highly recommended due to its focus on women during the Japanese occupation in WW2 unlike the usual focus on soldiers/men.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

Docu-drama meets comedy meets exploitation, Hong Kong-style. The film opens with several seemingly objective and unemotional comments from WW II veterans, talking about the time of the Japanese invasion in HK in 1941. What then follows is high-budget exploitation, full of sex and violence, about as mean-spirited as you can imagine. The first twenty minutes are light comedy (!), with Chingmy Yau and her sister enjoying the prospect of becoming film actresses. On a busy day of shooting, an assistant director enters the study, shouting: "The Japanese are invading Hong Kong!" Barely has he finished the sentence, the studio gate opens, Japanese forces flood the room and murder and rape everyone in sight. From then on, it's no-holds-barred: torture, rape, treason, betrayal. There's something here for everyone, except of course historical authenticity. This earned a C2 rating, but should only be watched by mature adults (and mature drooling voyeurs).

[Reviewed by Thomas Muething]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A tragic drama about the Japanese occupation of HK during WWII."It was a bit melodramatic, but my boyfriend and I really liked it. I've heard a lot about the Japanese internment in the U.S. so the other side of the story offered a unique perspective.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Mong and Sim Dai (Chingmy Yau, Veronica Yip) survive rape, torture, and worse as the Japanese take over China, and sharp lines divide patriots and collaborators. The anti-Jap message is pounded in with well-placed epithets, and still more rape and torture. A kind of poorman's Man Behind the Sun, this has scenes of you won't easily forget: one Chinese resister has bricks loaded on his legs until they buckle backwards, and then his stomach is loaded with water, and lanced. The fact that this stuff actually happened doesn't necessarily mean I want to see it.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 5