Full Contact with a Killer
- Hard Boiled
- City on Fire
- Full Contact
- God of Gamblers
- Kung Fu Cinema of Vengeance
Arthur's Review of Full Contact with a Killer
This was an historic event in several ways. Firstly and most importantly it would mark Chow Yun fat's first ever trip outside Hong Kong to see his foreign fans. Secondly and rather sadly it was also the last event of any kind to be held at the Scala cinema which was forced to close the next day after being taken to court for showing A Clockwork Orange which, at that time, was still not able to be screened in the UK at the request of the director Stanley Kubrick (The Scala is now an upmarket nightclub/bar aimed at trendy fashion victims, a long way from its grungy days as an independent cinema).
The festival was due to run for 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) and Chow would be making an appearance on both days. Each day would show a selection of his films although a couple of the same films would be shown on each day (The cinema of Vengeance documentary and Full Contact). Arthur had chosen to attend on the Saturday, the first day. It was organised by Rick Baker who was a sort of "Del boy" of the UK Hong Kong cinema scene. Rick ran the magazine/fanzine Eastern Heroes, wrote books on all aspects of Hong Kong cinema and also owned the Eastern Heroes video label (Arthur has some of these videos and it's not entirely certain whether some of them are legitimate or pirate tapes even though they were being sold as legitimate). Rick also dabbled with an Eastern Heros shop on Shaftsbury Avenue in China town in London but it didn't last very long.
The festival itself began at around midday at the Scala cinema in Kings Cross. Upon entering the cinema everyone was searched and given a good going over with a metal detector (they clearly weren't taking any chances and Arthur imagines it would be a bit embarrassing if one of Hong Kong's biggest stars was attacked on his first ever trip abroad). They also confiscated video tapes which a number of people had bought along in the hope of getting them signed by the man himself (they did let people keep the covers though for signing purposes). Arthur had bought along a film still from his Better Tomorrow 2 press kit.
Arthur was attending the festival with friend Ben (Arthur can't recall why Mr E didn't attend although it may have been that he didn't want to travel down from Manchester). Arthur and Ben also met a nice Irish chap named Martin in the queue who had come all the way from Dublin for both days. Once past the vigorous search, the lounge area upstairs contained the usual load of stalls selling programs, T-Shirts and posters. Arthur bought a program (some scans below) and some Hong Kong movie posters which are generally quite hard to get hold of. Upon entering the cinema itself, everyone was issued with a whistle to encourage crowd participation (At events such as this there was a lot of cheering and yelling especially when the action got going and the guys wearing white suits to show up the blood better got peppered with bullets. Strangely there were a number of empty seats at the back of the cinema and Arthur heard talk that a lot of people didn't actually believe that Chow was going to turn up. There was also rumour that organiser Rick actually sent people to China town to try and get attendees to fill the empty seats so that Chow would appear in front of a packed full house.
The films were shown throughout the day and even though everyone had seen most of them before at home, it was still great seeing them on the big screen. Full Contact was the only new film (and this was its UK premiere) and it actually showed Chow in a a slightly different role, without this trademark trench-coat and dark glasses. The whistles were used to full effect and all the action scenes went down well. The cinema of Vengeance documentary was line up padding but was still interesting to see. But by the end of the evening everyone was really just waiting for the main event, to see if Chow himself really was going to appear.
Rick Baker came on and gave it loads of build up. He got the crowd into a cheering frenzy and the atmosphere was pretty amazing. And when the curtains to the side parted and Chow Yun Fat stepped out (complete with entourage of wife, agent and alike) the crowd just went mental and Arthur had never heard cheering like it. It just went on for ages, with the whistles blowing and thunderous applause. Chow was visibly stunned as he paced back and forth across the stage dressed in his trench-coat, dark glasses and chewing on a single matchstick. There he was, large as life. Rick Baker had actually done it. Chow was there on stage only a few feet away and the crowd loved it.
Once things calmed down Chow started his talk for the evening (Arthur seems to recall that some of it was via a translator as his English wasn't too good at the time). He told everyone that this was his first ever overseas trip and he just hadn't believed that he had non-Chinese fans around the world until he'd stepped out onto that stage that night (there were a number of people who had travelled from across Europe to be there that day). He also answered a lot of questions about his films and the Hong Kong film industry (including several about how things would be affected when the UK handed control of Hong Kong back to China). Eventually the Q&A session came to and end and organiser Rick said that although they would love to be able to let everyone get an autograph there were just too many people and they were going to draw numbered tickets and only a certain number of people would get to go up on stage to meet Chow himself. This didn't go down too well but the crowd kind of accepted it. Chow set himself up behind a little table with a pile of stock photos waiting to be signed as the numbers were drawn and a stream of people filed onto stage. And then Arthur's prayers were answered as his number was read out. Unfortunately in all his excitement Arthur completely forgot to take his Better Tomorrow 2 film still that he had been lovingly protecting all day, with him, so when he got up there had to make do with the stock photo of Chow looking like something from a 1970's shopping catalogue (scan is shown below). After the signing Chow took to the stage once more and said a few words of thanks and left to yet another thunderous round of applause.
And that was it. Rick Baker had done the impossible and bought Chow Yun Fat to the UK. Arthur had his autograph (Chow, not Rick!) and had shaken Chow's hand and even had a small conversation (Arthur can't recall what he said). Looking back Arthur now realises just how important that day was. It was the first time that Chow Yun Fat became aware that people outside China had heard of him and loved his films and, that as an actor, he could play to a Western audience. It was probably that weekend that first made Chow think that it would be possible for him to one day make a Hollywood film and Arthur is happy he played a small part in helping make that possible and showing Chow that he could be a big star in the West. Saying that, Chow's first few Hollywood films weren't up to the standard of his earlier Hong Kong films and it is debatable whether his move to the west was a positive move given that he could have been making better Hong Kong action cinema instead! However films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have shown that in the right role with the right mix of East meets West, Chow can still shine on the big screen for a mainstream Western audience.