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胡越的故事 (1981)
The Story of Woo Viet

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/17/2005

Chow plays Woo Viet, a Vietnamese refugee who comes to Hong Kong with hopes of eventually emigrating to America. While in a refugee camp, he witnesses a murder by some Vietcong and becomes a target himself. After dispatching with his attackers, Viet realizes he must flee HK right away and turns to his only friend (Cora Miao) to help him get a fake passport. While staying with a "snakehead" (smuggler) and a group of illegal immigrants, Woo Viet becomes infatuated with a fellow refugee, Shum Ching (Cherie Chung). The snakehead has other plans for Ching, and while the group is in Manila, he sells her to a local brothel. Desperate to save Ching, Viet attacks a policeman and takes a local hood hostage to find out who controls the brothel. Viet finds the boss, a man named Chung, but can't save Ching as he is now a wanted man. Chung promises to help Viet if he becomes an assassin.

While Chow had worked on several films before, The Story of Woo Viet was his first role that had a serious script behind it (something other than his usual boring cop drama or romantic drivel that he was pigeonholed into at this point in his movie career) and allowed him to go beyond a stereotype in his performance. The movie is a bit-slow moving in parts, but it is held together by Chow, who does a great job. Also, the supporting cast does well, particularly Lo Lieh, playing a booze-soaked low-level gangster who later becomes Chow's partner, and Cherie Chung, who manages to come off as innocent without being overly naive, childish or stupid.

Those looking for tons of action will probably be disappointed. While there are a few shootouts and chases (as well as a few violent murders, including one of a small child), The Story of Woo Viet's emphasis is more about creating a dark mood and telling a compelling story, which it does well. If you want to see a good early role for Chow Yun-Fat, you don't have to look further than this movie.

Note: Hong Kong video versions of this movie are not subtitled. The only subbed version of this movie is Arena's God of Killers, but even then the subs are unreadable for the most part because the picture is center-framed and the subs are cut off on the sides.

[review from]

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 01/16/2001
Summary: A little disappointing

I'd heard big wraps on this one. Praise for Chow's intense performance, as he was trying hard to establish himself as a star, and for the astute work of Ann Hui, who is also one of my favourite directors.

Maybe it was the lack of subtitles, but I found a lot of the action was hard to fathom and, although the plight of the refugees was easy to relate to, I found it not as convincing as it could be.

Or perhaps it's because I saw Hong Kong 1941 just a week earlier. The comparison is unfair, of course. The two movies, HK 1941 and SOWV are similarly paced, deal with similar characters in a nearly parallel situation, and Chow is the lead actor in both. HK1941 shows Chow giving a gripping performance, assisted by an excellent cast who play their parts to perfection. SOWV has a weaker cast (including a number of unknowns) and the characters are harded to get into and, though I pitied them, I couldn't feel much else for them. Chow's performance is that of a troubled man and doesn't vary much. The luscious Cherie Chung was only just starting in movies, and it shows.
Actually, it is Cora Miao who stands out. Cora is one of those HK actresses whose features are not distinctive enough to make her easily identifiable. But she is nevertheless a fine actress, and carries well the part of the woman who was Chow's penpal and (I assumed) aspired to be his lover, only to lose him to the gorgeous and vulnerable Cherie.

A lot of screen time is taken up with veteran fu actor Lo Lieh, who plays the main ruthless gunman who becomes Chow's protector. I'm afraid the old tough guy outclasses Chow completely.

Things are all very grim, of course, but whereas HK1941 rises above this, SOVW does not. This may have been the director's intention, but the ending left me on a mild letdown.

I've seen one disreputable video distributor flogging SOVW under the title "God Of Killers". Lord, please save us from these idiots ! Chow's character does get drawn into petty crime, but he's far from the proficient killer of Better Tomorrow or Hard Boiled.

Briefly, if you are a Chow fan and you wish to see SOWV and HK1941, I'd recommend you see SOWV first. if not, SOVW is likely to disappoint.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: wrlouis
Date: 12/09/1999

An intense, disturbing social drama. Vietnam-born Woo Viet (CYF) and Hong Kong native Lap Quan (Cherie Chung) were pen-pals as children. Their relationship is renewed when Woo Viet escapes to Hong Kong: the first stop on his flight towards the United States. His character is gentle, and quiet, on the surface, but the audience soon senses the internal agony and bitterness generated by years of war. As obstacle after obstacle prevents him from achieving security and peace, he lashes out with increasingly frenzied violence and despair. Fascinating depiction of the seamy political and business industries built up to exploit refugees at the time. Cora Miao co-stars as a fellow refugee whom Woo Viet tries to protect.