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大劫案 (1975)
The Big Holdup

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 02/18/2014
Summary: Yes, this is Mr. Li, the brother of Mr. Li

I have only seen one other non-martial art Chor Yuen films and have not been impressed with either of them. My biggest concern going into this was that it was going to be similar to his worst faults in his wuxia films and there will be an overabundance of plot twists and characters. While there is a decent amount of characters and the plot is understandable, there are other issues that hurt the quality and credibility of this film. For fans of martial arts (there is less than a minute of total fight time) or crime action films, this is first and foremost a modern-day social melodrama. Do not let the beginning fool you. This movie would take in less a third the box office intake (421,644 HK$) than next year’s Killer Clans (1,596,557 HK$).

The heist starts at the French bank Banque de Indochine (a real bank for the exterior) and the holdup is accomplished when 5 million HK dollars is being transferred and en route. For some reason gun shots are fired in the soundtrack, but not in the movie making me initially think that a few people were shot. This is foreboding of the realism and attention to detail that is to come with the rest of the film. It goes off without a hitch and they get away. The initial plan to split up and go to different countries is a smart one. However, if the masterminds of the robbery are not on your side you are in trouble. All five names of the culprits are leaked to the police before they can get away. Maiguang (Tin Ching) soon after he leaks the information gets rid of his companion Lucy right after she tells him that the boss might betray him. This scene is brazenly inept and the person who falls for it was so incredibly gullible that you want to strangle the screen. The boss does end up betraying him in another scene of masochism (for you the viewer not for them.) The main boss is actually the son of an inspector. In the most psychologically effective scene in the film, he actually takes the money into his dad’s office as if to rub his nose in it. I just wish more of the film was like this.

While the five Li Guochao (Yueh Hua: Come Drink with Me), Li Guocheng (Wong Chung: All Men are Brothers), Huang Philip the race car driver (Ling Yung: Death Duel), Chen Jiuzai (Danny Lee: The Killer), and Ma Rulong the former martial art star (Chen Kuan-tai: Challenge of the Masters) are hiding out, what better time than to wax poetically about the past injustices of your life by incorporating melodramatic flashbacks. They all have reasons for wanting a large sum of cash. The Li brothers are in trouble with the triads because of the drug addicted Guocheng. Huang is out of work and his girlfriend the singer Fangting (Lau Ng-kei) is dying and has six months to live (the film seems to forget that if she has six months to live, she will be very sick a big chuck of that time) and he would like to take a worldwide trip with her before she discovers the undiscovered country. Chen has horrible parents and needs the money to take care of his siblings as well as wants to help his friend Ma. Ma was screwed over by his movie producers and wants his old life and house-set back. Will they escape to a better life? Will Chen be happy with the morally loose rich kid driving a sports car with a good heart Jenny (Lam Jan-kei) whom he recently kidnapped and now is his girlfriend?

I love that so much of this was filmed outside. I enjoy seeing Hong Kong in film especially with the Shaw Brothers which I am used to seeing more set design than city life. The cinematography is good from Wong Chit (he has done a lot of Chor Yuen’s films.) I liked the use of the flashback structure though it often went into pathos to explain each individual’s reason for getting into the reasons for their predicament. It is an ambitious undertaking with a fatalist theme, but fails in its intent as either a social critique or a didactic message. I do not mind tonal shifts in film, but I do want them to be done competently.

The ending is atrocious with one of the most horrific and idiotic shootings of a suspect I have ever seen. But there are more than a few other face-in-palm moments in this movie. There is a blowing up of a car that rivals Hans Moleman’s touch explosion in an episode of The Simpsons. This is not a comedy so you wonder, why did that car explode? Or the car jumping over two cars yet there was no ramp for that to happen. There is the quickest case of Stockholm Syndrome that I have ever seen. And I have not even complained yet about the very annoying drug addicted character whose behavior that led to his demise was one of the most frustratingly idiotic choices that made me want to go Elvis on the TV screen. He is a more annoying relative than Eric Robert’s character in The Pope of Greenwich Village. This movie is only for die-hard fans of Shaw Brothers or Chen Kuan-tai whose characterization is the best since he is a real martial artist playing a martial artist with an added intermittent limp.

This was seen in the R3 IVL with mono Mandarin language track and English, Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesian subtitles. The English subtitles are quite good. There is a misleading new trailer for this film along with others for Danger Has Two Faces, The Condemned, Police Force and Kidnap. In the Movie Information section there is: Movie Stills, Original Poster, Production Notes (with a very misleading synopsis of the movie) and Biography and Selected Filmography.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 09/29/2007
Summary: Hectic crime thriller

A gang of young robbers steal HK$5,000,000 as it is being transferred from a bank and get promptly ratted on by their boss, Maiguang (Tin Ching). Maiguang then, just as promptly, gets knocked off by his boss. The youngsters, now fugitives from the law, try to piece together what went wrong as they evade the law.

THE BIG HOLDUP is meant to be a taut crime thriller from veteran director Chor Yuen. The first half hour typifies exactly why I love Hong Kong cinema yet sometimes find it so frustrating – the pace never lets up for a second, and packs in so much energy for a full-length film in its own right. Unfortunately, as is quite often the case, this results in one hell of a confusing mess, as characters are introduced with scarcely a line of dialogue, people are casually bumped-off and betrayals are heaped on betrayals.

Thankfully, the second half hour calms down considerably and the film gets a chance to breathe. We find that each of the five fugitives have a good reason to turn from the path of the righteous into a life of crime (we hitherto couldn’t care whether they lived or died – another failing of the earlier act of the film). We have Chen Kuan-Tai as Ma Rulong, who, in a rare non-action role, actually plays an action film star who has fallen on hard times (the scene where he gets screwed over by his film studio is probably not far from the truth), Danny Lee as Jiuzai who just wants to feed his siblings away from their father who is psychotically addicted to cigarettes (that’s what it says in the subtitles, anyway). Elsewhere, we have the former racing driver whose wife has just six months to life but longs for a world cruise and a pair of brothers in trouble with the Triads.

After the backstories have been told, we come back to the present day and rejoin the characters as they fight for survival. The final half hour deals with each member’s varying fate.

If you can make it past the first half hour of this film you might find some enjoyment here, but generally THE BIG HOLDUP feels rather predictable. Incidentally, there is no “holdup” in this film, which I found rather disappointing; I was expecting a kind of early PEOPLE'S HERO. The directorial style seems a bit hackneyed as well now, with a lot of interior shots with overhead lights swinging dramatically where they don’t really have a need to swing at all. In any event, it’s unlikely you’re going to stumble on this film by accident, so avoiding it shouldn’t be a problem. If you do want to seek it out, it’s probable that you already know exactly what you’re getting.

Reviewer Score: 5