Year of release: 1994

Company: Wong Jing's Workshop

Genre: drama

Running time: 95 min.

Director: Chin Man Kei

Script: Chan Hing Ka

Producer: Andrew Lau

Editor: Angie Lam

Stars: Chingmy Yau, Veronica Yip, Law Kar Ying, Elvis Tsui

Rated III for language, violence, nudity and sex

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1941 Hong Kong on Fire


Like many movies associated with Wong Jing, it's kind of hard to pinpoint what exactly 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is attempting to do. At times, it's a light romantic comedy, but in others, it's some of the sleaziest exploitation action this reviewer has ever seen. Usually, for some inexplicable reason, Wong's movies can usually pull this kind of schizophrenia off, but 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is ultimately let down by a lackluster script and poor direction.

1941 Hong Kong on Fire tells the story of a family affected by the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during World War II. The movie begins with an interesting approach, using interviews and newsreel footage to set up the story, but this more serious, documentary-like approach is let down by some very dopey comedy. In fact, the first half-hour or so is much more of a family "dramedy" rather than the usual blood and boobs one expects from Wong Jing. But all of that changes in one scene. A guy comes in and announces "the Japanese devils are coming", and sure enough, within thirty seconds, they kick in the doors and proceed to rape and kill everyone.


This exact same process is repeated a couple more times during the movie -- despite its' fluffy beginnings, 1941 Hong Kong on Fire is definitely not for the squeamish. Those not put off by the rape scenes will most likely be disgusted by the torture scenes, the most brutal of which involves force-feeding a man chili peppers and then slicing open his engorged stomach. I'm sure that these sorts of atrocities did go on during the war, but the movie takes an almost gleeful approach to the despicable actions, and the film becomes a bit cheap and tawdry as a result.

Still, there are some good things about 1941 Hong Kong on Fire. Despite the uneven script, most of the actors do a good job, especially Chingmy Yau. Fans of her will really like her work in this movie, as she goes from doe-eyed romantic to seductress and killer. And yes, I will admit to getting a certain thrill from the exploitative bits. It's hard-hitting and brutal, but it's also something you would never see in an American movie -- and isn't that why most of us gweilos got into HK movies in the first place? Despite its' problems, 1941 Hong Kong on Fire offers up enough of the classic Wong Jing goods to make it worth a viewing -- just make sure to keep some Pepto Bismol handy for some of the saucier bits.