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天地雄心 (1997)

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 04/12/2006
Summary: Uneven.

1997 was a year filled with an uneasiness and uncertainty for the people of Hong Kong. Gordon Chan Ka-Seung and Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu collaborate on a screenplay layered with irony and liberal political subtexts about a conflicted scientist as he does battle with an evil group working to the destroy the earth. What the heck were they thinking? Strange blend of sci-fi, mystery, drama, and offbeat comedy translates poorly to cinematic experience.

As a director, Gordon Chan Ka-Seung has made some wonderful films. He seems out of his league here. This film is for Chan completists only. The movie is probably most notable for a subdued performance by Anthony Wong Chau-Sang during a period when he was shredding scene after scene with his whacked out antics. The Hong Kong Film Critics Society awarded their "Film of Merit" to this production.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 04/04/2006

Just goes to prove that three great HK stalwart stars do not a great film make. Andy Lau, Anthony Wong and Michelle Lee are pretty much totally wasted on this muddled and expensive trash. The story starts at point A, jumps to B, then C, then .... never seeming to cover the same plot point twice. By the time the end comes around, you won't care if evil or good triumphs ! And why on earth did they shift some of the story to Prague ????

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 10/10/2005
Summary: Good intentions thwarted by mediocre material


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital

In Gordon Chan's disappointing sci-fi potboiler ARMAGEDDON - Hong Kong's response to "The X Files" - Andy Lau plays a communications expert who is targeted for destruction by a mysterious organization known as the 'Brotherhood of Technology', which is somehow linked to the recent deaths of several prominent scientists, all of whom were victims of spontaneous human combustion (spectacularly demonstrated during the opening sequences, one of the film's few dramatic highlights). Throughout the investigation, Lau is visited repeatedly by the ghost of his recently-deceased girlfriend (Michelle Reis), and her presence appears to confirm a series of clues that foretell the end of the world. Unfortunately, the climactic explanation - which strives for cosmic significance - is so poorly conceived and executed that it belittles the entire project, especially the second-rate visual effects used to depict the onset of Armageddon.

Chan's direction is merely functional at best, except for a handful of scenes which focus exclusively on the intimate details of his characters' lives, but these neatly observed moments only serve to betray his impatience with the generic demands of commercial cinema. For the most part, Chan's film is simply too slow for its own good, mainly because he allows a series of lengthy dialogue scenes to continue well beyond their relevance to the plot, thereby slowing the narrative to a crawl. That's right, this is HK's first *boring* action movie! Ultimately, the best that can be said of the film is that it attempts to foster new areas of enquiry for HK cinema, but all its good intentions are wasted on mediocre material.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 11/18/2002
Summary: Lots of things happen but aren't connected to the movie!!

A lot happens in this 2 hour movie but most of it doesn't even connect to the story, whatever the story is. The ending is far far fetched When the movie finishes you wonder, what just happened??

A lot LOT more work should of been done to the movie storyline because this looks like a first draft full of ideas which dont connect together!!


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 06/08/2002
Summary: Bad

As said in the previous reviews, Armageddon is pretty much a waste of time if you consider watching it. Far from original, and a story which is as thin as a thread, and combining some very poor acting from both Andy Lau and Anthony Wong. I was hoping that after just 45 minutes they would all just die and the credits would start!

Another flop for Gordon Chan.


Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/12/2002

A group of the world's 10 leading scientists are being killed in mysterious ways and it seems Dr. Ken (Lau) is next on the list. MI6 wants to protect him, but instead Ken wants his cop buddy Chiu (Wong) to protect him. Together, Ken and Chiu discover a dark plot involving a cult called the "Brotherhood of Technology," which seems to be preparing for armageddon --the final confrontation between good and evil.

On first glance, Armageddon could have been a great movie. It's got an interesting story, a good director, a great leading man in Wong, and one of the largest budgets in HK cinema to date. But what the makers of the film didn't pay attention to was the script. After a slam-bang opening, the movie quickly grinds to a halt, wasting away time in scenes that really have nothing to do with the film. By the time the secrets are "revealed" (sharp viewers will be able to guess the "plot twist" a mile away), the audience is so bored and disoriented that it doesn't matter. And, for the large budget of the movie, the depictions of the final apocalypse are really weak. I'm also really sick of the "lover from the dead" plot which has been rehashed so many times since Ghost became popular in the '80's. It's a tired and overused plot device and, while it does figure into the plot here, it also tends to slow down the film.

An okay movie, but nothing worth rushing out to see.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

I saw this movie a few years ago and was very disappointed, despite the relatively big budget, intriguing premise and good cast. Just rewatched it the other day mainly because I wanted to check out the commentary track by Gordon Chan and Stephen Hammond on the Taiseng Special Edition DVD.

Well, the movie is still as bad as I remembered. It's a convuluted, slow-moving mishmash of creepy unexplained phenomena a la X-Files, religious superstitions about the end of the world versus reason/science in general and information technology in particular, and lastly a variation on the Chinese Ghost movie genre, all thrown together in a confusing and haphazard manner. Andy Lau stars as brilliant young scientist whose life seems threatened when all of a sudden scientists all over the worls die under mysterious circumstances. Together with his police pal played by Anthony Wong, they start investigating and soon are confronted by apocalyptic prophesies about the end of the world. And Andy's fiancee (played by Michelle Reis), who was killed in an accident a few months before, suddenly begins reappearing. Is she a ghost? Will the world come to an end? Would I have cared more if they had had a bigger special effects budget?

The movie is well-intentioned, but can't help the fact that for most of the film you see the cast sitting around giving exposition and lecturing the audience about anything from Nostradamus to Revelations. It gets even funnier when they show the supposed revolutionary new technologies Andy's character is working on. Shot in 96, the film harkens back to the days when the concept of the information superhighway had not yet been replaced by the new economy model and the internet revolution in the public's mind, and consequently, all the film can come up with is - an improved form of television! Well, they also manage to annoy anyone who has any understanding about technology: What is obviously digital switches at a Telco company is being presented as a server farm (and you have the mandatory bespectacled assistant guiding Anthony as the audience proxy through the whole set up and uttering the magical word that always pops up in movie treatments of computers - "firewall").

The actors struggle to keep things interesting. Michelle looks gorgeous as always, and Andy Lau for once doesn't take off his shirt. Some scenes were shot in Prague and are visually interesting, but the pieces never come together to form a convincing whole, and the overblown ending borders on the ludicrous.

With all the fears about the handover, this was a timely topic, and could have made for an interesting movie. Instead you have a movie that doesn't quite know what it wants to be and consequently shifts tone several times throughout the story. Gordon Chan should stick to doing genre movies like his SDU films...

The DVD commentary track, as mentioned earlier, was the real reason I rewatched this film. I had high expectations, given Stephen Hammond's witty humour, but alas, I was let down. For the most part, they simply introduce actors ("now we see Andy Lau, he's real famous in HK, and he starred in many movies"). Whenever Stephen runs out of things to say (which is often), he resorts to asking Gordon Chan pointless questions ("now the scene we're looking at - did you shoot that on a soundstage?"). I found it utterly boring, just like the movie itself. It puzzles me why Taiseng would give a forgettable movie like this a Special Edition treatment...

Not recommended.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 10/16/2000
Summary: Unusual premise, flat execution.

I thought that, despite this movie's generally poor reputation, watching it without the expectations generated by a "new, expensive Gordon Chan movie!" would allow for modest enjoyment. Unfortunately, that's not the case; I was just as disappointed as those who were looking forward to it must have been.
Chan deserves credit for taking on subject matter unusual for a Hong Kong movie; rather than quickly set up a black and white conflict and let it play out violently, it plays out more as a metaphysical mystery. Unfortunately, this means lots and lots of clunky exposition. I get the feeling the movie would be slightly more enjoyable for Cantonese speakers; there's the sense that there is occasional wit here, but it's just out of reach via the subtitles. Another addition to the plus column is Michelle Reis's being hit by a bus; (not really a spoiler)it is very, very convincing. Aside from the unusual biblical storyline- which doesn't really make that much sense if you give it any thought- this film is also notable for one of the most pointless on-location shoots ever, a completely wasted detour to Prague. Overall, this is worth skipping.

Reviewed by: resdog781
Date: 08/24/2000
Summary: What the hell happened?

From what I could piece together, some satanic high priest dude is collecting rich and powerful men in order to bring about the end of the world. His next target is Andy Lau. Anthony Wong as Lau's annoying reporter friend and Michelle Reis as Lau's dead girlfriend (who inexplicably comes back to life at the end of the movie) are along for the ride. Pretty cheesy special effects and acting. But the set pieces were very stylish (especially that subway station in Prague. Was that a real place??) and of course, being a Gordan Chan film, that SDU raid on the temple at the beginning was pretty cool too. Even though it had almost no point.

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/09/2000

Oh, I just finished watching this and I'm so confused! Allow me an attempt to summarize the plot. Dr. Ken (Andy Lau) is a scientific genius running a high technology company. Various weird things are happening around the world, including the murder of top scientists in strange ways (as well as unexplained satellite blowouts). In addition, Dr. Ken is grieving over the death of his girlfriend Adelé (Michelle Reis).

The police fear for his safety so Detective Chiu (Anthony Wong) is assigned to be his bodyguard. For some bizarre reason, the police let Dr. Ken and several members of his company get involved in the murder investigations (yeah, the police love it when civilians get involved!). This is the first hour of the film. It starts getting weird when Adelé starts showing up in various places and a look into one of the dead scientist's files turns up a load of millenial literature.

This is not an entirely bad film but it's not very succesful either. Given maybe another hour it could have pulled off the switch from mystery thriller to millenial rumblings but as it is it feels awfully rushed. There are some very nice scenes between Andy Lau and Michelle Reis (who has the most beautiful speaking voice in this film) as well as some good scenes between Anthony Wong and Andy Lau.

However, the ending left me shaking my head, asking "what the heck happened?" Having watched the film by myself, there was no answer. Gordon Chan went on to direct and write the much better Beast Cops next year. See that and then watch this one if you're in the mood for something bizarre.

Reviewed by: Mark
Date: 12/30/1999
Summary: Half-baked metaphysical mish-mosh

This film was so disappointing. It starts with a SWAT team breaking into a Church and confronting a scary monk who cunningly defends himself by exploding. The rest of the film is nothing like that. Instead, you get half-baked metaphysical mish-mosh, and handsome HK film stars walking around in Prague (Prague, fer chrissakes! What were they thinking?). The plot is all about HK's brightest scientists being knocked off as some precursor to the end of the world, but when the coming of the Antichrist is explained as the arrival of Saddam Hussein, you just want to crawl under your seat and die. All in all, it could have done with less of the thinly disguised metaphor for the Handover, and more of the exploding monks. More's the pity, Andy Lau is really good as the stoic scientist, Anthony Wong is really good as the seedy cop, and Michelle Reis is really good as Andy's girlfriend who gets hit by a bus. (She's dead before the film starts, so stop whining that I'm giving the plot away.) It's enjoyable enough while it's passing, but so utterly fails to deliver that when it's over you wonder why you bothered watching it and why they bothered making it. However, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society call it "A fantstic rendition of Hong Kong's global role and a bold reaction to the challenge of Hollywood with an original blend of mysticism and science fiction", so what the hell do I know?

Reviewed by: IanD.G.
Date: 12/09/1999

Mediocre ain't the word. This movie is only for the die hard fan of Andy Lau or Michelle Reis. It's woeful! At the end of the movie and the only reason I made it to the end was that I was hopeful of at least minutely understanding what the hell this movie was about, I was left totally at a loss. I didn't even know if the bad guy was a fraud, God or Satan. My personal recommendation is to miss it.

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

Dr. Tak Ken (Andy Lau), who bones up on books like The Tao ofChaos, is apprised of a strange set of anomalies in the greater HK area: an eminent scientist in hiding seems to have spontaneously combusted in the attic of a church, half a radar dish is in ribbons, and still another scientist is in hiding from the same fate. Before disappearing/dying, each has received an invitation from The Brotherhood of Technology, and the power of this sect seems to be potent enough to revive Dr. Kim's late girlfriend (Michelle Reis) in various spectral reappearance's. At around this time, the audience suspects that the plot has dug itself into a corner, but having committed itself to improbability, the movie goes all out. It transpires that there's an apocalyptic Caucasian angel (or is he a devil?), able to materialize at will to usher in the Seven Seals that will destroy and rebuild the world, and that the vanished scientists are part of the newly installed twelve men who would eventually rule things (only one of them is a woman, indicating the typically poor judgment shown by Christian potentates), and whose one rational decision has been to revive gorgeous Michelle Reis. The angel (or devil?...okay, I'll stop with the portentous babble) also shows great promise in his predilection for big explosions, which (aside from Reis) is one of the film's few merits.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 5