Numskull: THE BIG HIT, as if you couldn't tell was not originally intended to have a Hong Kong flavor to it.
Alexander: I did not know this. Explain. (Although I'm guessing it has something to do with Kirk Wong's direction.)
Numskull: I listened to the screenwriter's commentary and he said he originally wrote it as a "dark character study" (his words), and that it had a Coen Brothers feel to it. (for the benefit of the cinematically illiterate: Joel and Ethan Coen are the brothers who did FARGO, BARTON FINK, and O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, among others)
Alexander: I cannot -- even for a second -- envision "BH" with a "Coen Brothers feel to it." How did the film go from there to a colorful vehicle w/HK style action and Marky Mark as its star?
Numskull: The writer (Ben Ramsey) didn't imagine a big studio would be interested in it, but he happily sold out when that turned out to be the case. Oodles and boodles of changes were made to the original script and the action elements were given more emphasis when he found out that Kirk Wong expressed an interest in it.
Alexander: Well, I'm glad the changes were made. I think "BH" is the is the best American film incorporating HK-style action to date. I shudder to think the film is even remotely associated to the Coen's though.
Numskull: Heh...the original plan was for Melvin Smiley to die at the end, but I'm not sure how. His final act was to return the video (they wanted to use Popeye but changed it to King Kong Lives for copyright reasons)
Alexander: Did not know that. Would like a peek at the original script as I cannot picture this film a Coen-like character study.
Numskull: Melvin Smiley had a "morbid" obsession with being liked. Of course, they kept that in there to a degree. Also China Chow's character was originally a high school student instead of a college undergrad. They changed that because a grown man dragging an 17 or 18 year old girl off into the sunset to bang her 'til the cows come home was too controversial.
Alexander: I'm glad you brought up China Chow. Even though acting her way out of a sopping wet paper bag would be a Herculean endeavor, she IS mighty fine.
Numskull: Of course she is...how else do you think she got the part?
Alexander: Same way Christina Applegate got hers?
Numskull: At least she got the accent down pretty good.
Alexander: That school girl outfit absolutely blew me away. But where the hell has she disappeared to? You figure she'd at least show up in some soft porn or something.
Numskull: I was just gonna ask you...have you seen China Chow in any films since THE BIG HIT? No? HAH! A victory for the aesthetically challenged.
Alexander: But a huge defeat for those of use who like to see hot women in school girl outfits being stuffed into car trunks.
Numskull: So just kidnap some girl, put her in a scandalously short plaid skirt, throw her in the trunk, and videotape the whole thing. What's the big deal?
Alexander: What did you think of Marky Mark's performance?
Numskull: I think you mean Mark Wahlberg...it's a movie, not crap...oops, I mean RAP. He did fine, I guess, but plenty of other guys could have done it just as well.
Alexander: I think he was well-suited for the role. In fact, the casting was perfect for this film. Lou Diamond ("La Bamba"), Bokeem Woodbine, and Antonio Sabato fit the comic book feel of the film.
Numskull: Avery Brooks gave the best performance, I think. Well, him and Armed Thug #3 in the first shootout.
Alexander: LOL. He was decent. Can't picture him as anyone but the Captain on Deep Space 9 though. Worst performance by far is Applegate's. And what the hell was going on with the whole Jewish Princess subplot?
Numskull: Hey, the finished cut is only 91 minutes. They had to fill up time somehow.
Alexander: In your review you mention "Oh FUCK no!" as being the best line in the movie. Why?
Numskull: I just like the way he says it. But if they had kept "I suck your dick like I'm drowning and your balls are full of oxygen" in the final version, I would have picked that instead.
Numskull: Uh...because I'm a sick bastard?
Alexander: How do you explain Mark Wahlberg's meteoric rise from this film to "Boogie Nights" (his best) to "Planet of the Apes"?
Numskull: I don't.
Alexander: Actually, "Three Kings" may have been his best work thus far. He's come pretty far since his days as Marky Mark ("Good Vibrations") and underwear model.
Numskull: Maybe it's because some secretly gay studio executives thought his BOOGIE NIGHTS wang was real, and they gave him lead roles in exchange for fudge-packing privileges.
Alexander: Sold his, er, soul to Hollywood, eh?
Numskull: I remain to be convinced that rappers HAVE souls.
Alexander: Dude, you cannot categorically lump all rap into the same category. There are plenty of soulful, intelligent artists and songs.
Numskull: I'm not saying there aren't...I'm just saying I hate 'em all!
Alexander: "Back Dat Azz Up" has little appeal then?
Numskull: Less than "little" actually...mercifully the soundtrack isn't too abrasive in that respect.
Alexander: MUCH better than the soundtracks on most recent American MA releases. Question: Why does Hollywood struggle with blending HK-style cinema w/traditional American action and actors? "BH" was fairly successful, but all we've seen since is trash like "Romeo Must Die" and "Replacement Killers".
Numskull: Answer: Because they probably figure most Americans won't see a movie with an all-Asian cast. And, before CTHD, I would have said they were right. KISS OF THE DRAGON may not be an instant classic but it's pretty good despite Bridget Fonda's presence (her character is annoying as all hell).
Alexander: But "BH" has a multi-ethnic cast and successfully incorporates HK film elements. Why can't (or won't) American studios make more films using HK filming techniques?
Numskull: Fear. Fear that US audiences will reject it, OR, fear that US audiences will love it and abandon Hollywood's films in favor of Hong Kong's.
Alexander: Hm. Possibly. And the failure of "Replacement Killers", "The Corruptor", and "KOD" supports that. A shame, because the best action films and directors in the world are HK.
Numskull: I think THE BIG HIT got the success it did based on the sex appeal factor more than the action. The action content really isn't THAT high anyway. Shootout, long pause, car chase, improbable tree limb bit, fight in video store. Any additions made to increase the running time probably would have been in the romantic departments, both "doomed" and "budding."
Alexander: True, but I would have liked to have seen more, er, "romance" between China and Mark.
Numskull: Oh baloney...you just wanted to bang her yourself. To hell with sex...give me violence any day.
Alexander: Even her name is sexy. China Chow. China. Chow. Damn.
Numskull: What the hell kind of Anglicized name is "China"? It's a country, not a name. Her parents should be ashamed of themselves.
Alexander: It's got kind of a porn star quality, like Kobe Tai and Asia Carrera. Think there is a China Chow fan club?
Numskull: Yeah, probably. There are plenty of pathetic people out there who would happily associate themselves with such a thing.
Alexander: So if I joined one you'd think less of me? It's no worse that MPM's obsession w/Mickey Rourke, is it? Or Alvin's track suit fetish? Or Ryan's psychoses?
Numskull: I wouldn't think less of you, I'd just think it was kinda stupid. I've never been in any fan club. Not even the SKYCLAD fan club. The whole notion just seems silly to me.
Alexander: I've never been in one either, although I was strongly compelled in college to start my own "Saved by the Bell" fan club. Don't ask.
Numskull: OK, I won't. So do you have a favorite line from TBH now that we know what MINE is?
Alexander: Sadly, no. I was too preoccupied w/China Chow and Antonio Sabato, Jr.'s abs to pay much attention to the dialogue. In fact, as much as I enjoyed this film, I'll be first to admit the script sucks. I was more interested in how good everyone looked and the action sequences.
Numskull: Our society is way too obsessed with looks. But that's another can of worms entirely. Yeah, the finished script isn't anything too special, though I bet it would have been more interesting if it had been filmed in accordance with the original version.
Alexander: I agree the story would have been more interesting, but it also would have lacked the entire HK flair I enjoyed so much.
Numskull: Not if the comic relief had been downplayed rather than the action. Not many HK action films cause you to burst out laughing.
Alexander: That's because HK directors seem to have such a hard time filming comedy. A lot does get lost in translation and from cultural differences. I'm watching 2 HK films now where there are obvious attempts at comedy, but they fail miserably. If there's 2 things HK films lack, it's stready pacing and clearly defined tone.
Numskull: No argument about the pacing but I think the "tone" part is debatable...it depends on what kind of movie it is. FLYING DAGGER is a good HK comedy even though the subtitles suck. If you pay attention you'll "get it" most of the time.
Alexander: True. True. "Needing You" retains a light-hearted comedic tone throughout, but most of the HK films I've seen awkwardly shift between grim seriousness, violence, to slap-stick comedy and humor.
Numskull: Sometimes that's not a bad thing. THE BIG HIT doesn't have "tone" problems but the pacing seems weird for a Hollywood film. Action-comedy, then sitcom, then action again with a little less comedy.
Alexander: Agreed. Not surprising since John Woo was a producer and Kirk Wong directed. Seems American films, like "Payback" for instance, are generally fairly consistent regarding tone. Primarily has to do with direction which explains the slap-stick elements of "BH".
Numskull: On the screenwriter's commentary, he said the reviews that pissed him off were the ones that said the makers of TBH "didn't know what kind of movie they were making." He describes it as a "hip-hop Hong Kong," even though that's not what he came up with at first.
Alexander: That surprises me since you mentioned earlier he wanted to give it a Coen-like flavor. Can't picture a Coen film labeled as "hip-hop Hong Kong." I think I enjoyed this so much BECAUSE I knew what it was. I can imagine those not familiar w/the HK genre confused by the over-the-top action, slap-stick comedy, and disjointed narrative.
Numskull: It doesn't take much to confuse American audiences. I know someone who had to watch PULP FICTION three times before they "got it."
Alexander: LOL...Likewise, I have plenty of friends who despise both "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp" because they don't "get" them. Can say the same for "Go" and "Trainspotting" as well.
Numskull: You really wanna have some fun, show those people TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NUMBER ONE. That's probably the most intricate HK movie I've ever seen. I admit I didn't totally "get it" the first time but that's at least partially due to the shitty subtitles...blurry white, burned right onto the picture. They were too lazy to remaster them for the DVD. It's a great film, though.
Alexander: Haven't seen it. A bit off topic, but a question: What is it about HK cinema that appeals to you? I've been asking myself that a lot lately (especially after watching crap like "Sexy and Dangerous").
Numskull: Nothing about HK cinema in general really appeals to me; it's just certain movies. When your own country's films fill your throat with bile, it's time to look elsewhere. I was hooked by RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, like many other people, but since then my tastes have certainly matured. There's always gonna be shit films coming out of HK but to me it's worth it, running the risk of seeing something that sucks, when occasionally you hit paydirt with something great like MR. VAMPIRE or even something that's really good but not quite "great"...like maybe BEAST COPS.
Alexander: Funny you should mention "Rumble". I loathe that film. Almost turned me off completely to HK cinema. Wasn't until I saw a worn tape of Woo's "The Killer" and "discovered" Tarantino lifted a scene from "City on Fire" for "RD" that I realized HK cinema really had something to offer, especially when it came to action. I can't think of a single American action film in the past 5 years that rivals anything by Woo's or Hark's HK releases. And I've recently discovered light comedies like "Needing You"...
Alexander: ...Wong Kar Wai, and genre bending films like "Portland Street Blues" and "Tokyo Raiders".
Numskull: I don't really like RUMBLE anymore but I thought it was cool when it first came out over here. Before that I hardly watched any movies at all...just a little bit of anime. That was before everybody and their estranged brother-in-law decided that THEY were the world's biggest anime fan. But I digress. HK cinema is a hobby, not an obsession. I don't care about which films make the most money or get classified as "must see." I've never seen CHUNGKING EXPRESS and if I have anything to say about it I never will, because it's not my kind of movie, regardless of where it's from. I don't give a fiddler's fuck how many people say it's a classic and I can't call myself an HK film fan if I haven't seen it. Pig shit. I watch what interests me. No more, no less.
Alexander: Agreed that watching HK films is best categorized as a hobby. If I were a true HK obsessive I'd start watching Jackie Chan films which I have VERY little interest. I think MPM's site pointed me in the right direction as far as watching quality HK films though. If I randomly selected shit off Netflix just because it was from HK I'd be watching a whole lot of shitty films.
Numskull: Yup. A lot of people who call themselves HK fans are really just chop-socky fans. People who keep watching kung fu flicks from the '70s are doing themselves a big disservice by ignoring newer stuff. Then again somebody could say I'M doing MYself a big disservice by not watching films X, Y, and Z so to hell with it.
Alexander: Can't watch everything. And if you do, you'll end up with "Gen-Y Cops". It's almost imperative you stick w/a favorite genre of HK films or you'll go absolutely fucking crazy. So I guess you won't be reading my review of the romantic comedy "Summer Holiday" starring Sammi Cheng? LOL.
Numskull: I'll read the review, but I doubt I'll watch the movie. Do you have one posted for THE BIG HIT?
Alexander: No, not yet. I read yours and figured trying to top it was pointless. Great review. Not much left to be said about it, I think.
Numskull: Damn, it's that good? I'll have to re-read it.
Alexander: Any predictions for "RH2"? I think it will gross more in its first weekend that "BH" did in its entire run in theaters.
Numskull: For some reason I have a feeling it won't suck as much as the first one. And it will probably make decent money, too...not because of Jackie Chan, but because of Chris Tucker and because of Zhang Ziyi in a business suit.
Alexander: ZZ in a business suit will be a big draw? I'm thinking less is more here. Anyway, it's bound to do huge business. I can't stand Tucker and am not a big Chan fan, but I'm eager to see super-fucking-hot ZZ. Have you seen "Gorgeous"?
Numskull: A business suit may not be revealing but at least it's tighter than what she wore in CTHD...I'm surprised the commercials aren't hyping her presence more. Anyway, no I have not seen GORGEOUS. And I just re-read my BIG HIT review...I'm not convinced that it can't be topped. Review it, damn you. And read the review underneath mine for some comic relief. "...so muddled up it's hard to even understand what's going on." What the FUCK?!? This movie is simplicity itself.
Alexander: LMAO...What did you expect from a Ryan Lundgren review? Anyway, I'll pass on reviewing it. I think we've covered most of the bases here and I'd struggle to come up with anything new to say about it. Also, what if our handful of friends were indeed the only people who read these things? I'm not writing a review JUST for Ryan's benefit, y'know.
Numskull: If I'm writing for an audience of twelve, so be it. At least most of them are bright enough to follow me. Same goes for anyone else, really. But you're right, we've covered most of the bases so let's wrap up. This is about as good as intentionally mindless movies get. And how about that song at the end, eh? You gotta be a real genius to write lyrics like that. "I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man." Mind-blowing stuff!
Alexander: "BH" is an enjoyable comic-book style film that has a distinct -- and very welcome -- HK flavor. China Chow is hot. Very hot. And Mark Wahlberg is finally able to shed his "Good Vibrations" faux bad boy image with a decent performance. A sure sign of great things to come for Marky Mark sans the Funky Bunch.
Numskull: Yay. Thank you, everyone, for plowing through our excess verbiage to reach this point...unless you just skipped to the end.