sui Hark is one of the all time greats of Hong
Kong martial arts cinema, having been responsible for undisputed genre
classics such as "Zu
Warriors" and "Peking
Opera Blues". Unfortunately, his output in recent years has been
somewhat patchy, including a number of dire Van Damme vanity projects and
the lackluster "Vampire Hunters". Given this currently uninspiring
state of affairs, fans of the director would do well to explore his back
catalogue, a fair amount of which is enjoying a new lease on life thanks to
digitally remastered DVD releases.
One such film, Hark's second as
director, is "We're Going to Eat You", an insane romp which
straddles the martial arts, horror and comedy genres, with lashings of grue
and even a sprinkling of social commentary thrown in to add flavor to the
chaotic mix. Despite the bloody box art and advertisements, some of which
seem to be trying to cash in on the Italian cannibal craze so prominent at
the time, the film is actually quite light-hearted, with a winning sense of
humor and a wacky disregard for logic. The non-stop action scenes really
give Hark a chance to show off his directorial skills, and the film has an
infectious energy which makes it worthwhile not only for his fans, but
anyone who enjoys unrestrained, inventive and gory fight scenes, the likes
of which are rarely seen in modern Hong Kong cinema.
The plot, which is probably best described as
'loose', follows Agent 999 (Norman Chu, also in "Zu Warriors"),
a policeman chasing a bandit with the equally unlikely moniker of 'Rolex'
(Melvin Wong, who category III fans may recognize from "Run
and Kill"). Joined by an inept thief he meets along the way,
Agent 999 follows his quarry to a remote island off the coast of the
Chinese mainland, whose only inhabitants live in a mysterious, run down
village. The islanders turn out to be a pack of savage cannibals, ruled
over by a cruel boss (played by Eddy Ko, recently in Johnny To's "PTU") who
sends them out in search of plunder and human flesh. As 999 closes in on
his prey, who seems to be hiding somewhere in the village, he uncovers the
island's gruesome secret, and finds himself fighting desperately for his
life as he tries to keep off the menu.
To be honest, the plot is irrelevant, existing only
to vaguely tie together the fight scenes, and the script has the
impression of being made up as the production progressed. Hark's lack of
concern for the film's narrative is pretty obvious, since a couple of the
characters seem to change names during the course of the story, as do
their motivations and back stories. Fortunately, these inconsistencies are
actually very entertaining, and only add to the film's chaotic nature.
Hark seems to be acting as a highly skilled juggler, managing to achieve
the difficult feat of combining action, laughter, and some surprisingly
potent gore into a semi-coherent whole.
The film is certainly very entertaining, and whilst
very definitely in the worst possible taste (especially the scenes
involving a grotesque and overweight transvestite intent on seducing
everyone he sees), is jovial enough that it's never actually offensive.
"We're Going to Eat You" is certainly quite a bloody film, and
although there is little actual cannibalism, there are plenty of
dismemberments, bisections, impalements, and martial arts battles
involving meat cleavers. However, the gore is often offset by some rather
endearing and silly touches, such as having protagonists wear
roller-skates, or the liberal application of the time honored Hong Kong
cinema tradition of slapstick.
The film does appear to have some kind of social
commentary lurking beneath the chaos, and Hark seems to be making a
statement about corruption. This is achieved through Ko's brutal island
leader, who dresses in army fatigues like some low-rent dictator, and
walks around barking orders, helped by a wretched and insincere priest.
Although this is obviously not the most significant feature of the film,
it does add a valuable depth which is usually lacking in the genre.
Hark shows a number of directorial flourishes, not
only in terms of the film's dynamic energy, but also in some superbly
staged fight scenes. Aided by famed choreographer and director Corey Yuen
Effect 2"), Hark throws in some sequences featuring impressive
numbers of protagonists and an incredible amount of disposable scenery.
There are some nice touches, such as Agent 999 rolling a cigarette on the
forehead of one of his opponents during a brawl. Although lacking in the
ballet and pomp which some viewers may be used to in modern martial arts
cinema, thanks to the likes of "House
of Flying Daggers", this is still invigorating stuff, far more
violent and with a visceral impact that has more in common with the recent
stunt-packed films of Tony Jaa than its current Hong Kong brethrens.
"We're Going to Eat You" stands as an
excellent example of an old-fashioned martial arts movie that mixes
surprisingly effective comedy with copious bloodletting. Although the
style and execution may seem a little rough to fans of recent high gloss
epics, for those looking for something raw, and with a wild vibe,
"We're Going to Eat You" is the answer.