Out and about: Chasing the Dragon

October has been amazing month of cinema releases for me. The last I am going to write about is Chasing The Dragon. Hong Kong cinema is considered to be in its death throws. There are small independent films of course, but its far from its hey day with production houses known around the world like Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest or Media Asia.

Mainland productions have the money and many technical experts and directors now work across the border. Korea has come on in leaps and bounds taking up the overseas arthouse audience.

There aren’t many new stars coming through, even in Chasing the Dragon; character actors and main stars are largely industry veterans since the 1990s. However, Chasing the Dragon gives me some hope for the Hong Kong film. Its an unashamedly Hong Kong film focusing on the economic boom of the 1960s and mid-1970s. It is a technical tour-de-force. Much of the Hong Kong shown in the film from old Wan Chai to the Kowloon walled city only exist in fading photographs. So much of it was green screened in instead.

It is probably too local for a mainland audience to fully appreciate the nuances and historical references. It shows a Hong Kong on the ascendancy, rather than suffering under a century of shame. It also holds up an unflinching view of British colonialism with its rampant individual corruption.

A modern British audience would have very little idea of how serving British police officers at all levels and government officials were central cogs in the corruption. Eventually the stench got to much when chief superintendent Peter Godber was found to have over $600,000 US stashed away.

Andy Lau plays ‘Lee Rock’ a clear analogue of Lui Mo Lok (呂慕樂) a corrupt policeman known as the The Five-Hundred-Million-Dollar Inspector by Hong Kong people. In some respects one can view Chasing The Dragon as a reboot of the 1991 film Lee Rock II where Lau played the same character through the same time period. Chasing the Dragon adds verve, detail and taunt storytelling to the mix.

The film is being shown at the Odeon in Panton Street.