Baby dragon

By David Sturm, Copyright © 1996

This is the briefest genre, intended to acknowledge a handful of films. Hong Kong cinema is sometimes considered slapstick and corny by Western audiences--Variety calls the genre "chopsocky"--but there are worthy films here.

Bruce Lee is the godfather of this genre and his "Fists of Fury" (1972), filmed in Hong Kong, was followed by his last feature "Enter the Dragon" (1973), which was made in the U.S. In both, violent action is the sine qua non of filmmaking.

Jackie Chan is the heir to Lee and his "Drunken Master" and "Drunken Master II" deftly combine humor, martial arts wizardry and elaborate stuntwork. In terms of stunts, Chan's "Police Force" contains two eye-popping set pieces, one in a shanty town and one on a double-decker bus, that are for all time.

Director John Woo's gangster movies portray bullet hosings with lip-smacking brio. "A Better Tomorrow" (1986), about a cop and gangster who are brothers, is the director's breakthrough movie and it includes his charismatic star Chow Yun-Fat.

Woo's "The Killer" (1990), also starring Yun-Fat, is about a hit man with scruples and a maverick cop who team up and mow down an army of bad guys. It's a dazzler and if there is a masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema, this is it.

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