cover image Hong Kong Action Cinema

Hong Kong Action Cinema

Bey Logan. Overlook Press, $23.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-87951-663-5

Followers of Hong Kong films know what action really is. The balletic, often violent, frequently absurd but always imaginative and entertaining cinematic output of that tiny island is leaping and chopping its way into the West, and Logan's book does an excellent job of clueing new followers into what's what and who's who in the Hong Kong action scene. Many of the top chop-socky stars, such as Jackie Chan, come from the rigorous classical training of Peking Opera, where actors are required not only to sing but also to tumble, dance and fight with traditional weapons. Logan shows how the popular story of 19th-century martial-arts hero Wong Fei Hung was blended with equally popular Peking Opera action to launch a new movie style in the late 1940s and how that style has exploded since then. Although most of the Hong King films shown in the U.S. are police action flicks, some of the nuttiest are the ghost stories and fantastical-historical reenactments of events from the semi-legendary past, many of which are given their due here. Author Bey (who has appeared in a number of Hong Kong films and is the editor of Combat magazine) covers the leading actors, the fighting females (who are rarely just romantic interests) and the transition that directors such as John Woo and Tsui Hark are making to Western studios--where many of the stunts copied from their films preceded them. For the reader just discovering Hong Kong cinema, this book is an excellent guide. For the old hand, it offers juicy tidbits on the past and present of this exciting and increasingly popular genre. (Oct.)