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Acclaimed Hong Kong film director Benny Chan Muk-sing died last Sunday (23 Aug) from cancer. Best known for his crime films, like the award-winning New Police Story (2004), Chan has left behind a lasting legacy. We take a look at eight of his most memorable films and one TV series — and some of them may surprise you.
1. New Police Story (2004)
If it's a New Police Story movie, that means there be must a Police Story movie predecessor — which is precisely the case for this film. The fifth in the Police Story film franchise, New Police Story is the first reboot of the series, which sees Jackie Chan playing the role of detective Chan Kwok-wing (he had played Inspector Chan Ka-kui in the first four films). The film won the Audience Choice Award at the 41st Annual Golden Horse Awards.
New Police Story was followed by Police Story 2013 (2013) nine years later, which was a second reboot of the series. The franchise has lain dormant since, with the exception of Bleeding Steel (2017), whose sole tie to the franchise is the fact that it was released under the title of Police Story: Reborn In Japan.
2. Gen-X Cops (1999)
Starring Nicholas Tse in the title role of Jack, the film was quite literally a high octane action movie, with a plot revolving around stolen jet fuel and even a yakuza thrown into the mix. It was perhaps one of the most memorable Benny Chan films of the late ’90s, and perhaps much more significant to Gen-Y-ers (also known as millennials) than to Gen-X-ers.
It was so popular that it spawned a sequel the very next year, Gen-Y Cops (2000).
3. Gen-Y Cops (2000)
Ironically, Gen-Y-ers would probably remember Gen-X Cops (1999) more fondly than Gen-Y Cops (2000), simply because the original was much better. Chan returned to direct this sequel, but Tse did not reprise his character — so the void was filled with a new character played by Edison Chen (his character was also called Edison).
While the film attempted to be bigger and better, with a more complicated plot involving stolen robots, underground cage fights, and hypnosis attempts — it didn't have the impact that its predecessor did.
4. Big Bullet (1996)
Chan's other most famous work was Big Bullet (1996), which won the Best Film Editing award at the 1996 Golden Horse Film Festival. It centres around demoted police officer Sergeant Bill Chu (Lau Ching-wan), who has to prove himself after his hot temper lands him in trouble. While the English title sounds a little lacklustre, the Chinese title roughly translates to a more flamboyant "Assault Troopers on the Streets of Fiery Rage", and has a deeper connection with the plot of the film.
5. The White Storm (2013)
A smash hit, The White Storm (2013) was a Chan crime-thriller that revolved around drugs (hence the "white storm" of the film's title). Both a critical and commercial success, it saw powerhouse actors Sean Lau and Louis Koo playing the lead characters of the movie, Ma Ho-tin and So Kin-chow respectively. It won an award for the Best Film Score at the 12th Changchun Film Festival, and Marc Ma won the Best New Performer award at the 32nd Hundred Flowers Awards for his role in the film.
Sadly, the sequel The White Storm 2 – Drug Lords (2019) was not quite as good as the original — perhaps because Chan did not return to direct that film.
6. Invisible Target (2007)
Nicholas Tse collaborated with Benny Chan again in Invisible Target (2007), which saw three police officers from disparate backgrounds teaming up to take down a gang of criminals who stole an armoured truck full of cash. While the plot was intriguing (and also hit all the right notes for a Hong Kong crime drama), the film fell short in the climax. Benny Chan was credited as one of the scriptwriters for the film as well.
7. Rob-B-Hood (2006)
Also known as Robin-B-Hood (which would probably would have confused audiences into thinking this was a Robin Hood film), Rob-B-Hood (2006) was notable among Chan's films for casting Jackie Chan as a conflicted, flawed anti-hero who had more than his fair share of character defects. At the time, Jackie Chan had been playing clean-cut straight cop roles for over 30 years, so this was a refreshing change from his usual roles. The film's plot follows the exploits of three burglars who end up having to take care of a baby after a botched kidnapping.
8. Meow (2017)
Meow (2017) came totally out of left field (for a Benny Chan film), being a science fiction comedy film about an alien cat that gets adopted by Louis Koo's footballer character Ng Sau-lung. The movie involved a CGI cat and a planet of alien cats — and you'd never have expected that Chan was the director.
9. Fist Of Fury (1995, television series)
The six-episode television series was an adaptation of an earlier film that went by the same name in 1972, and starred a young Donnie Yen as the main character Chen Zhen. Chan was one of the six directors who worked on the martial arts show, lending his forte for action to the series.
Interestingly enough, the opening theme song of Fist Of Fury was performed by Donnie Yen as well.
Which of these films (and TV show) have you caught?
Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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