AKA: Roboforce

Year of release: 1988

Company: Film Workshop

Genre: science fiction

Running time: 96 min.

Director: David Chung

Script: Yuen Gai Chi

Action director: Ching Siu-Tung

Producers: Tsui Hark, John Shum

Cinematography: Law Wan Shing

Editor: David Wu

Music: Romeo Diaz, James Wong

Stars: Sally Yeh, Tsui Hark, John Shum, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Ben Lam, Lam Ching-Ying

Rated II for violence

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I Love Maria

I Love Maria

This fast-paced and fun movie proves that not all movies featuring giant robots have to suck or be cheesy. Taking place in the near future, I Love Maria tells the story of a group of criminals known as the "Hero Gang" who use robots to commit their crimes. The police force is unable to stop the Gang and Hong Kong looks to be overrun, until a fired scientist (John Shum) meets up with a rogue member of the Gang (Tsui Hark), a robotic version of one of the Gang's leaders (Sally Yeh) and a nosy reporter (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), forming an unlikely team to fight the Gang.

Unlike most Hong Kong science fiction, which tends to look very bad compared to its' Hollywood counterparts, I Love Maria has a stylish and competent look to it. Perhaps it's the lack of CGI imagery and emphasis on solid camera and editing techinques which soldifies I Love Maria. Most anyone -- even amateur film-makers -- can make decent special effects nowadays, but when the computer, and not the film-maker, becomes the primary tool, a movie tends to suffer. Of course, there have been exceptions to this (Storm Riders is a wonderful example of CGI eye candy) but most times, CGI just looks cheap to me. I Love Maria recalls an older time when simpler techniques were more satisfying than more techincally advanced methods due to the creativity of the film-makers.

I Love Maria

The movie's solid foundations are helped along by the performances of the cast. It says something when the duo of John Shum and Tusi Hark doesn't make you want to kick in your TV (see Yes Madam for an example of the opposite effect). True, there is some dopey comedy (a bit about the robotic Sally electrocuting the duo is almost beaten to death), but it doesn't go too far over the top like some Hong Kong comedies. Ben Lam, one of the more under-rated actors in Hong Kong movies, is perfect as the villainous leader of the Hero Gang, and Lam Ching-Ying turns in another solid performance as Tsui's sympathetic friend in the Gang. Of particular note is Sally Yeh's performance. I have never regarded her too highly as an actor, but she is great in I Love Maria, being suitably nasty as the human Maria and surprisingly charming (and great-looking) as the robot version. Long-time Hong Kong film fans will also have some fun picking out various personalities in cameo roles, such as Kirk Wong as a bartender or John Woo as a police commander.

What really puts I Love Maria as a "must watch" movie are the action sequences. I have said it before and I will say it again, Ching Siu-Tung is a genius who often doesn't get the credit he deserves. Some people don't like his high-flying wire-fu style, but it fits in perfectly with this film. The action in I Love Maria is explosive and over-the-top, just like any good Hong Kong movie should be. If there is a fault with the action, it's that there isn't enough of it. The stuff in here is so good that I wanted more. I Love Maria is one of those rare movies that you want more of after it ends.

I Love Maria