Slumdog Millionaire (2008)





Danny Boyle’s Academy Award-winning film is a visual delight that revolves around three time frames for a young man, whom as the title indicates, appears on a popular game show and relives how is able to know the answers.

Jamal Malik is first seen at a Mumbai police station, enduring pure torture from investigative officers who think Jamal is a cheater. Coming off a near-complete victory on an Indian version of the popular game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Jamal relives the accounts to the head officer how he knows the answers to the questions when he is accused of fraud.

The film intercuts between three time periods in Jamal’s life. There’s the present, in which he is at the police station giving his case to the head officer. There’s Jamal on the game show, in which the host of the show, Prem, seems both impressed and not happy at the same time with Jamal’s performance. Finally, we learn where Jamal came from and the obstacles of life he and his older brother Salim endure from the time they are children orphaned when their mother is killed to the near present, where Jamal works at a call center and Salim has become a gangster. However, Jamal still remembers and still has feelings for a young woman he met when they were kids, Latika.

Boyle makes good use of the film’s locales and the young fresh cast of the film. While the major characters Jamal, Salim, and Lakita are all played by various actors in different time frames, it is the performances of the young versions of the characters that really drive the film. The three young child actors were originally from the slums of Mumbai and in their film debuts, did a great job showing the troubles that these children endure, perhaps mimicking something they sometimes may go through in real-life.

Their performances do not take away the performances of newcomers Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, and Madhur Mittal, who play the present versions of the characters. Patel brings out a kind of shyness yet subtlety to the role of the titular “slumdog millionaire” Jamal. Frieda Pinto brings out the “damsel in distress” role as Lakita while Madhur Mittal finds himself torn between his loyalty to his boss and his loyalty to his brother, as if he must act on a road to redemption for all the hurt he caused Jamal since they were little kids and there is plenty of that sibling rivalry that drives Salim to make a decision.

Boyle does bring out some disturbing scenes to the film, and while it does help the story move quite steadily, it can be quite cringe-worthy at times. One such scene involves a young boy singing for a local thug and after impressing the thug; he gets knocked out with ether and is blinded by some sort of silver nitrate to his eyes.

It is truly fitting that Slumdog Millionaire deserves its Oscar-winning award for Best Picture. Danny Boyle truly shows a sense of life in Mumbai slums mixed in with one man’s dreams coming true. Plus, check out the end credit sequence where Boyle pays tribute to Bollywood in true fashion. This is truly a delightful yet gripping film.


Warner Brothers presents a Celador Films production in association with Film4 and Pathé Pictures International. Director: Danny Boyle. Producer: Christian Colson. Writer: Simon Beaufoy; based on the novel by Vikas Swarup. Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle. Editing: Chris Dickens.

Cast: Dev Patel, Saurabh Shukla, Anil Kapoor, Raj Zutshi, Jeneva Talwar, Freida Pinto, Mahesh Manjrekar, Madhur Mittal, Irrfan Khan, Zaharuddin Mohammad Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubina Ali, Feroze Khan.


A Fighter’s Blues (2000)

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Andy Lau’s 100th film shows a once broken man who finds himself on the verge of redemption.

After serving a fifteen-year sentence in prison, former kickboxer Mong Fu has been released. He decides to look for his one-time love, Pim Nanthasiri, an aspiring documentarian. However, he has learned the sad news that Pim was killed during the making of a documentary in the Golden Triangle. Fu learns that he has a daughter, Ploy, who is staying at a local orphanage run by Sister Mioko. However, Fu can’t bear to shake the memory of the night he killed local champion Chart Chai.

Despite his demons, he and Ploy slowly begin to bond. He even begins to warm up to Sister Mioko. However, at a national match where Ploy is cheering on, Fu has been spotted by Chart Chai’s former trainer, who tells everyone about Ploy’s father killing Chart Chai. An embarrassed Ploy denounces her father, who remembers that fateful night again and decides he must settle it once and for all. He has learned that Chart Chai’s trainer has trained six-time champion Tawon and in an effort to settle things, Fu challenges Tawon to a match in the ring.

Black Mask director Daniel Lee took the reins on this film, which he co-wrote with Cheung Chi-Sing and Lee Hau-Shek. The film is actually a kickboxing version of films such as Raging Bull where a fighter at the top of his game falls hard and seeks redemption. However, in the case of Andy Lau’s Mong Fu, the film opens with his release from prison and his quest for redemption.

It is clear why Andy Lau is one of the best actors in Hong Kong. In this film, he plays a broken man who is looking for both forgiveness and redemption if not anything else. While he has lost someone close to him, in the form of Pim, played in flashbacks by Thai actress Indira Jaroenpura (who has a bit of a resemblance here to Karen Mok), he learns of his and Pim’s daughter Ploy. Newcomer Apichaya Thanatthanapong, in what looks to be her only film role, does quite well in the role of Ploy, who has her doubts but eventually warns up to her long lost father.

Japanese actress Takako Tokiwa brings some great support as Sister Mioko, who runs the orphanage where Ploy stays until Fu enters both of their lives. While Lau trained in Muay Thai for his role, the film does feature some real-life Muay Thai champions. Samart Payarakoon, a veteran who retired from the ring in the late 80’s, plays the ill-fated Chart Chai while Niruj Soasudhcart plays the current six-time champion Tawon, who Fu challenges as a means to find redemption and forgiveness within both the Muay Thai community and within himself as well. Ridley Tsui’s experience as action director comes well into play in the in-ring fights.

A Fighter’s Blues is a really good film where it’s not about the fights, but about the drama. Andy Lau shows why he is one of Hong Kong’s great talents. His role is impressive both in and out of the ring while trying to find himself in the process.


China Star Entertainment Group presents a Teamwork Motion Pictures Limited production. Director: Daniel Lee. Producers: Andy Lau, Derek Yee, and Catherine Hun. Writers: Daniel Lee, Cheung Chi-Sing, and Lee Hau-Shek. Cinematography: Venus Keung, Sunny Tsang, and Thomas Yeung. Editing: Azrael Chung.

Cast: Andy Lau, Takako Tokiwa, Apichaya Thanatthanapong, Indira Jaroenpura, Dickens Chan, Calvin Poon, Kowit Wattanakul, Samart Payakaroon, Niruj Soasudchart, Ekachai Waritchaaporn.

Kitano Leaving Company He Founded 30 Years Ago

Takeshi Kitano (right) has perhaps shocked the cinematic world.

After founding his company Office Kitano in 1988 with Masayuki Mori, Kitano is leaving the very company he founded at the end of March. Mori confirmed the news in a Japanese newspaper.

Since founding the company, Kitano has made some great films under his belt, both as director and actor under his “Beat Takeshi” persona. They include Hana-Bi, Violent Cop, Sonatine, Boiling Point, and Brother as well as his Outrage trilogy.

Kitano’s plan is to go the indie route and there are now rumors that the actors he has signed, collectively known as “Takeshi’s Army”, may be following Kitano as well, thus putting Office Kitano in jeopardy. Kitano, now 71, plans to also get some more personal time in, hence another reason for his departure from the company.

Aside from Kitano’s films from 1990 to present, Office Kitano has also produced the recent murder mystery Traces of Sin, starring Satoshi Tsumabuki and directed by Kei Ishikawa.

H/T: Variety

Yes Madam! (1985)

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Hong Kong action cinema has had its share of female warriors from Cheng Pei-Pei in the late 60’s to Angela Mao in the 70’s. With this Corey Yuen-directed action feature, two names became synonymous with action. However, one of the ladies broke the mold and became one of the first foreigners to have a lead role in Hong Kong action cinema. The ladies are none other than former Miss Malaysia Michelle Yeoh and American martial arts champion Cynthia Rothrock.

Inspector Michelle Ng is a Royal Hong Kong police officer who was readying herself for a vacation to Scotland with her longtime boyfriend, Richard. Richard is in possession of a microfilm which contains forged documents for a top business. Wanting to get his hands on the microfilm for a price is crime boss Henry Tin. Tin sends his top hitman, Dick, to make the price. When Richard refuses, Dick kills him and escapes. Michelle gets on the case but soon learns she will have a partner direct from Scotland Yard to assist her. Carrie Morris, played by Rothrock, is a policewoman who resorts to more unorthodox methods while Ng is more by-the-book. Meanwhile, the microfilm has accidentally ended up in the hands of a trio of small time crooks, Panadol, Aspirin, and Stresil. Now, it becomes an all-out war with the microfilm as the prize.

One of the first true “girls with guns” action films from first time producer Dickson Poon and Hong Kong legends Sammo Hung and Corey Yuen, this film provides some ample action thanks to a healthy combination of firepower and martial arts action. Truly following in the vein of the classic Police Story, the film became a breakthrough not only for Michelle Yeoh, but was also the launching pad for Cynthia Rothrock. Poon and director Corey Yuen clearly made a wise choice by casting Yeoh, a ballet dancer, and Rothrock, a five-time martial arts champion, in the lead roles. Their relationship of sorts can be seen as a precursor to some of the great “buddy cop” action films of Hollywood, such as the Lethal Weapon series and the Rush Hour series as they are complete opposites yet join together to take down a common foe.

While most of the drive of the film is brought by Yeoh’s Inspector Ng and Rothrock’s Inspector Morris, more important characters come in the form of the medicine-named trio of crooks. As played by comedian John Shum, martial arts choreographer and longtime Yuen cohort Mang Hoi, and “the Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong” himself, Tsui Hark, the fact these three will do anything to make it to the big time leads to them getting in the worst of times and eventually having to help Ng and Morris with the investigation.

On the side of the bad guys, lead villain James Tien isn’t seen until more near the climatic finale, but it is his two henchmen, played by Dick Wei and Chung Fat, staples of Sammo Hung’s Lucky Stars films, that do most of the action. Wei plays the atypical hitman who has no remorse when it comes to killing while Chung is more of the moustached-looking perhaps ex-military vet that like his cohort, has no remorse or regret. Seeing James Tien in a villain role is a welcome turnaround from his days as a good guy in Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss and Fist of Fury. However, he had been playing villains for most of the mid to late-70’s, mostly in some of Jackie Chan’s early work with schlock director Lo Wei. Bringing the time to modern days, Tien still brings that tenacity that makes him a worthy villain actor, even though he gets no action on screen like the good old days.

Director Yuen and co-star Mang Hoi collaborated as action choreographers and they provide some top notch kickboxing style action mixed in with some heavy duty arsenal. While Yeoh would get her martial arts training from stuntman turned actor Lam Ching-Ying, Rothrock seems to have the upper hand in the martial arts department with her experience. However, both women look impressive when it comes to their fight scenes on screen and while they were doubled for some of the more complicated acrobatic moves, they hold their own when it comes to the more kicking and punching. Yeoh, on the other hand, brings in a value of shock when she performed a very insane stunt herself in which she evades two of Tin’s thugs by flipping through a pane of glass and grabbing the ankles of the thugs. Normally for a novice action star, this type of stunt would require a double but Yeoh proved her mettle here and this is clearly the beginning of what would be at first, a short lived career careening into a major comeback since 1992, beginning with Police Story 3: Supercop.

The movie would be known in territories as the second installment of Hong Kong’s famous In the Line of Duty films, yet it was made before the official first installment, Royal Warriors. Nevertheless, Yes Madam! is definitely not only an action film for men, but women as well as this film alone shows that women can not only be as tough as men, but sometimes, even go as far as being tougher.


A D&B Films Ltd. Production. Director: Corey Yuen. Producer: Sammo Hung. Writer: Barry Wong. Cinematography: Bill Wong. Editing: Sek Chi-Kong, Keung Chuen-Tak, and Peter Cheung.

Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, John Shum, Mang Hoi, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Billy Ching, Chung Fat, Kong Lung, Dick Wei, James Tien, Chan King, Ma Kei, Ka Lee, Tai Bo, Eddie Maher, Melvin Wong, Dennis Chan, Michael Harry.

The Mighty Four (1977)

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Casanova Wong seeks revenge for the death of his parents in this pretty standard Korean action film that makes for some interesting action pieces.

As a child, Yin Chun-Yang watched his father killed and mother committing suicide at the hands of Chinese warlord Ma, who was in love with Yin’s mother. Yin would be raised by Uncle Yi, a kung fu expert and flute player. Many years later, a grown up Yin is determined to seek revenge. However, Yi knows that his nephew is far from ready to take on the now Commander Ma and his three lackeys.

Meanwhile, a mysterious woman has been making her way to find Yin and for some reason offers to help him as she is confronted by Ma’s men as well. Unbeknownst to Yin, the woman is the daughter of Master Wong, the best friend of Yin’s father, who had promise to marry Yin. When Yin’s attempt at revenge results in him being kidnapped, tortured, and crippled, Yi convinces Yin to hide in the mountains so he can heal before training his body to be able to finally set revenge, especially when the mystery woman is kidnapped by Ma and his men after an attempt to pose as an elderly woman fails.

The team of Tomas Tang and Joseph Lai took a 1977 Korean martial arts film and dubbed the film in English. The film, known as Four Brave Dragons, or The Lone Shaolin Avenger, or Big Boss II; stars Casanova Wong as the hero, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his parents. Wong does a decent job in the lead as always. When he is warned that he is not ready to take on the commander who is responsible for his parents’ deaths, he finds himself forced to take on a band of thugs. The first fight scene involves Wong doing something that is borderline ridiculous. He grabs one thug by his crotch and lifts him in the air while kicking away at some thugs then throwing the first in theair This will may one cringe and laugh at the same time.

Carrie Lee plays a mysterious woman who definitely has ties to Wong’s character but is unbeknownst to both Wong and Lee. Hong Kong star Yeung Wai plays the interesting role of Wong’s uncle and martial arts teacher, who is known by the bad guy as “the flute player”. Chang Il-Shik is ruthless as the villainous Ma with Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, and future Korean cult film lead Elton Chong as the trio of Ma’s warriors who serve as his number one men. Chong and Kwak truly showcase their kicking skills when they go up against Wong in a series of battles.

Yeung Wai choreographed the film’s martial arts action scenes and they range from pretty good to flat out insanity. Being the superb kicker that he is with some amazing hang time, it really is nerve-racking when Casanova Wong does some insane tricks on wires. However, the non-wire fights are decently done especially the climactic showdown between Wong and Cheung. Cheung is quite a nice kicker himself and gets to show that nice bootwork in the finale.

The Mighty Four is definitely a mixed bag. Some of the action is quite nice but some of the action is also a bit cringe-worthy, and that one particular move in a cringe-and-laugh fest. If you are a hardcore fan of Casanova Wong, you will most likely see this.


An IFD Films and Arts Co. Ltd. Presentation. Director: Kim Jung-Yong. Producers: Hwang Yeong-Sil & Tomas Tang (Hong Kong version). Writer: Kang Dae-Ha. Cinematography: An Chang-Bok, Yu Chun, and Yang Yeong-Gil. Editing: Hyeon Dong-Chun.

Cast: Casanova Wong, Chang Il-Shik, Yeung Wai, Carrie Lee, Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, Elton Chong, Jeon Shook, Hung Sing-Chung, Baek Song, Pearl Lin, Kim Ki-Joo, Baek Hwang-Ki.

District B13 (2004)

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Luc Besson, the man behind the films La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element amongst others, wrote the screenplay for this amazing action packed film that highlights the free running art of parkour, and its creator, David Belle.

The title of the film refers to a lowly district outside of Paris, which has been plagued with gang violence. It goes so bad that there is no government, no police, and no schools. However, it is the home of Leito, a loner who only cares about one thing: his sister Lola. When Leito learns that Lola has been kidnapped by local crime lord Taha because Leito refuses to let drug dealers near his place, he intends to take Taha down.

Six months later, a bomb has been placed in District B13 and it is up to Damian Tomaso, a tough as nails Parisian cop, to enter the area and find the bomb. It is no sooner that Damian and Leito find themselves on the same page as the bomb was stolen by none other than Taha. Both Leito and Damian have special skills that enable them to take on the bad guys. This becomes a highlight reel for the amazing art of parkour, a style that involves scaling buildings with no use of wires and jumping from rooftop to rooftop as well as martial arts courtesy of Raffaelli, who gained a following after his impressive performance in Besson’s 2001 thriller Kiss of the Dragon opposite Jet Li.

While Besson is credited with co-writing the screenplay with co-star Larci “Bibi” Naceri and producing the film, the film was directed by Pierre Morel, who got his start as a cinematographer who worked on the first installment of The Transporter trilogy. For his directorial debut, Morel used his expert sense of cinematography with director of photography Manuel Teran to showcase the action sequences, choreographed by Raffaelli. The film made great use of its locales and buildings that were used for Belle’s and Raffaelli’s parkour skills.

As much as many movie viewers may see this as a routine action thriller, Besson has always been known for giving quality entertainment. With the success of The Transporter and Kiss of the Dragon, Besson wrote this film just for Belle and Raffaelli. Belle and Raffaelli both got their starts as stuntmen and bit players, but this film helped put them on the map as worthy lead actors. Both men have the acting skills and the action skills to carry the film and it succeeded. It did so well that a sequel, District B13: Ultimatum was released in 2009 and a U.S. remake, Brick Mansions, which would be the final completed film of late actor Paul Walker, was released in 2014.

The only flaw of the film is that there wasn’t enough villains who had the tendency to match the skills of Belle and Raffaelli. Taha is the sly crime lord who just sits around and lets his men do the work. His number one man, K2, is a big man who relies on two things, his gun and big mouth, to act like the big shot. The other villains are played by parkour artists, but they are there basically to look foolish and get beaten around by Belle and Raffaelli. Another villain comes in the form of a wrestler like guy who absorbs Raffaelli’s kicks and only gets defeated when Belle uses his parkour skills to tie a rope around the big oaf. They needed to have a worthy opponent or two to make some of the action scenes a little more interesting.

Despite the lack of “worthy opponents”, District B13 is still a fun film to watch, especially to see the art of parkour in full effect.


A EuropaCorp/TF1 Production in association with Canal+. Director: Pierre Morel. Producer: Luc Besson. Writers: Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. Cinematography: Manuel Teran. Editing: Stéphanie Gaurier and Frédéric Thoraval.

Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo, François Chattot, Nicolas Woirion, Patrick Olivier, Samir Guesmi, Jérôme Gadner.

Shock Wave (2017)

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Andy Lau becomes the target of a revenge plot as the fate of Hong Kong is in his hands in this Herman Yau-directed action thriller.

J.S. Cheung has risen through the ranks to become one of the most decorated officers of Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit. However, two years ago, he went undercover and worked for a criminal mastermind, Pang Tong, who like Cheung, is known for his skills with explosives. When Cheung helped stop a potential bank robbery, Pang escaped and has vowed revenge on Cheung, who has returned to the EOD unit and has begun a relationship with local teacher Carmen Li.

As part of his plot to seek revenge, Pang returns to Hong Kong and has taken the Cross Harbour Tunnel under siege by having everyone in the tunnel held hostage and threatening to blow it up if his demands are not met. Pang wants Cheung to return to ensure the safety of the hostages by first, forcing him and the police to release his brother Biao from prison. Biao has had a change of heart since Cheung busted him in the mission two years ago and has no interest in seeing his big brother. However, as complications arise, Cheung finds himself with the fate of Hong Kong in his hands.

Herman Yau is truly a force in Hong Kong cinema. His versatility has led him to tackle various genres. For one of his latest films, this action thriller, which he co-wrote with Erica Li, revolves around sealing the fate of the Cross Harbour Tunnel, an underwater connection between Kowloon and Causeway Bay and of course, the hero is someone with a connection to the one responsible for holding the tunnel hostage. Yes, the film does play like a Hong Kong-version of big blockbuster Hollywood action films, but there are some twists and turns set to keep the viewer engaged.

Andy Lau once again shows his prowess as a bankable lead in the role of J.S. Cheung, a member of the EOD who in the film’s opening, finds himself in an undercover investigation which involves infiltrating a criminal known for his expertise in explosives. The villain Pang Tong is well played by Jiang Wu, who seethes revenge for the bust two years ago. In a bold and smart move in the film, the love interest for Cheung is in no way glamorized, but rather an ordinary teacher played well by Song Jia. In their first meeting, Song’s Carmen is seen at a bar completely drunk and tells Cheung after meeting her at her school that she was only there that night because she wanted to see if she still “had it”, but it is clear that the relationship between Cheung and Carmen is not about having it, but is truly about love and caring for each other.

The action sequences are quite a delight to watch. From the vehicle chases to a finale that nearly rivals another Lau vehicle, Firestorm, for an insane shootout that ends with a shocker (no pun intended) of a finale that just boosts up the rating of the film. The opening chase alone is quite a watch as there are explosions involve including a final explosion (for the opening) that nearly sends a car in a tunnel, this becoming the catalyst of the core plot of the film.

Shock Wave is definitely a Hong Kong-equivalent of a blockbuster Hollywood film and who better than Andy Lau to lead the way in this tense thriller. Some notable twists and turns help make this one to definitely check out.


A Universe Entertainment and Infinitus Entertainment Ltd. Production in association with Bona Film Group. Director: Herman Yau. Producers: Andy Lam, Alvin Lam, Jessica Chan, Esther Koo, and Alice Chan. Writers: Herman Yau and Erica Li. Cinematography: Joe Chan and Mandy Ngai. Editing: Azrael Chung.

Cast: Andy Lau, Jiang Wu, Song Jia, Philip Keung, Ron Ng, Babyjohn Choi, Louis Cheung, Wang Ziyi, Felix Wong, Sek Sau, Liu Kai-Chi, Cheung Chun-Kit.

Being “Forgiven”: An Interview with Playwright/Screen Writer Michael Ashton


Michael Ashton is a playwright and screenwriter from Dundee, Scotland. After serving in the British Army, he studied law and became a legal counselor specializing in human rights. In 2008, after battling drug and alcohol abuse, Ashton was convicted of fraud, which landed him in prison for 18 months. Determined to turn his life around and to redeem himself, Ashton took a screenwriting course in prison. He has since written over 30 plays including the award-winning ‘The Archbishop and the Antichrist,’ which has since been adapted into a screenplay, The Forgiven, which was released in select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD this past Friday.

World Film Geek had the chance to talk to Ashton about his first screenplay and the personal inspiration of both the film and his original stage play.


First of all Michael, thank you so much for talking about The Forgiven. I found this to be a very powerful and emotionally driven film.
Well, thank you very much! I didn’t go to South Africa for the filming. I’m quite high in the Asperger’s field that leaving my house can be difficult. So I didn’t go when they were filming. Instead, my ex-wife Kim, who is also my manager, went to the filming. When I saw the film for the first time at the London Film Festival, I thought the final courtroom scene involving Horné Visser (as Hansi Coetzee) and Thundi Makhubele (as Mrs. Morobe), I mean wow. If the film was just that three or four minutes alone, I’d have been happy with that.

I was quite surprised to learn that this was based on a play you wrote, The Archbishop and the Antichrist. What inspired you to write a stage play about post-Apartheid South Africa?
Well, you must know that I went to prison. While I was in prison, I wasn’t going to waste my time. I took a Master’s Degree in Research Methodology. My thesis was actually on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. For free, once a week, I attended a play writing course. The people who ran the course, Synergy, they wanted you to write something for the end of the course.

And unlike the other guys in the class, I didn’t want to write about cooking and bitches (laughs). I wanted to write about what brought people to prison. When I was sent to prison, I was an absolute wreck. And I was a wretched creature. I mean, what caused me to commit my offenses? Because I was a practicing lawyer. I was completely gone for years on alcohol and drugs. I had destroyed every relationship you can imagine. I mean nobody wanted to know me. When I went to prison, I didn’t get any letters, visitors, nothing.

When I started to think about what I was going to write about, I was racked by guilt, tormented by guilt. I started to wonder about forgiveness and redemption. How do you deal with these issues? And when you are sitting in a prison cell by yourself, you only got yourself. So, when I started to write, I wanted to write something meaningful. And I realized that Desmond Tutu, was overlooked. You have films about Nelson Mandela, but Desmond Tutu, the man who worked hard and was in the front line for many years, was overlooked. Hence my story.

And of course, I had to invent a protagonist for Tutu and that was the white supremacist Piet Blomfeld. And curiously, I must have done a good job because a lot of people think he’s real. And of course, he’s not (laughs).

I thought he was real. It was that convincing to me!
Well, I invented him. I don’t even know if I’m real (laughs).


Director and co-writer Roland Joffe, who helped Ashton with his first screenplay.

You got to work with a renowned director in Roland Joffé, who co-wrote the screenplay for the film. How did you two meet and what was it like collaborating with him on the film?
It was absolutely fantastic! I loved Roland and I think he reciprocates. He’s a very special human being. He liked the stage play and I was introduced to him by Tony Calder, who in the 60’s and 70’s had managed The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces, Peter Frampton, and others. He introduced me to Roland and we started working on the screenplay. It was mind-blowing working with Roland. He’s a very careful and cautious person. Despite the fact he had secured Forest Whitaker for the film in 2011, he didn’t really want to get into the nitty-gritty of shooting the film until he was absolutely ready.

I’ve written a lot of stage plays across the U.K. and won numerous awards. My last stage award was last May, so transitioning from the stage to the screen, was not easy. Roland is a very patient and kind man, so he was able to help and he overlooked some indiscretions. For instance, having Asperger’s, I tend to fire off and I sent e-mails to people and getting all riled up (laughs). I told them I was never speaking to any of them again, ever (laughs). The following day, I sent another e-mail apologizing and Roland tends to forgive all of that. He would point out what wasn’t cinematic so we cherry picked the dialogue scenes, which were quite long in the film from the stage play, but that was from Roland’s excellent, spaced-out, guidance.

When it comes to plays, I get introduced to the actors on day one and then after the read through, they don’t want me to come back (laughs) because of the fear that if they change the dialogue, I will get mad (laughs). Roland’s patience with me is boundless.

Were you involved in any casting of the film? I felt Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana (above left) gave such powerful performances in the film. Personally, I thought this was Eric Bana’s best role.
Kim, my ex-wife and manager, Roland, and Craig Baumgarten (producer) asked me who I wanted for the roles and they said, brilliant! (Laughs) Eric was right up there because I just loved his first film, Chopper. He played a chopper and his character was in prison for a while in the film. I actually have a couple of Chopper posters. Eric was right up there by choice but I suggested two actors.

The other actor I wanted was actually Joaquin Phoenix (above center). So I wanted Joaquin and Eric. It was brilliant when Eric took the part. Vince Vaughn (above right) wanted to play Blomfeld, but I couldn’t see him in that role. I do love him to death. He was brilliant in Get Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty, but I just couldn’t picture him in this role. So, when Eric took over, I was so pleased. I think either Eric or Joaquin could have played the role.

I could see Joaquin but I felt Eric had a slightly better advantage with the role. Again, this was one of his best roles in my opinion.
I actually spoke to Eric after one of the performances at the London Film Festival and when you’ve actually written something and you see it come to life in film or on the stage, it is hard for the writer to appreciate an actor of Eric Bana’s stature to where you tell them that this was the kind of role actors would kill each other to play.

This is your first feature film as a screenwriter and this was based on your stage play. Are there any more of your plays that you would consider adapting into film or do you have any new projects in the works?
Yes, for KS Productions, we are developing a six-part mini-series called Billy Wild, about the rise and fall of a 60’s pop star. This will be a joint US-UK production. We also have a feature film called The Gates of Sleep, which we have a director lined up and that’s pretty advanced as well.

The Forgiven comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on March 9. This is a powerful and emotional film that should be watched, especially for its theme and performances by Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana. Michael, you did a great job with the material and I thank you again for talking about the film.
Thank you so much!

A special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Michael Ashton for making this interview possible. For more on Michael, check out the KS Productions website for more information.

Chasing the Dragon (2017)

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Donnie Yen stars in this fact-based film on the life of one of Hong Kong’s most notorious drug lords with Andy Lau reprising a role from a two-film series in the 1990’s.

In the year 1960, a man named Ho and his three best friends escaped China and headed for Hong Kong. There, they make their money by joining gangs in street fights. During one fateful night, Ho and his men find themselves enraging a British police officer, Hunter. However, they are saved by Lee Rock, a recently promoted sergeant major who is as corrupt as his fellow officers, but has the smarts to outwits those who rank above him. Ho and his friends one day incur the wrath of crime lord Chubby, who offers Ho and the others a job after Ho proves himself to have impeccable fighting skills.

As the years go by, Ho gains respect within the ghetto known as the Walled City. Plagued with issues involving his brother, who has dropped out of school and has become a drug addict, to the possible idea of a double cross, when Ho learns that Lee is set up to be framed and killed by the nephew of Walled City’s top gangster Master Dane, Ho saves Lee only to be betrayed by his now former boss, who cripples Ho. No longer being able to fight, Ho decides to use his street smarts when he joins forces with Lee Rock. However, with power comes greed and Ho soon finds himself biting the hand that feeds him as he is set to play a dangerous game that could cost many lives.

Surprisingly, one would never have thought that someone like Wong Jing, who has been more known for his buffoonery of films in the 1990’s, would have written this film let alone direct it. However, he collaborated with cinematographer Jason Kwan, who shares both writing and directing with Wong. However, Wong has had his fair share of serious films such as his Colour gangster film series and he has executive produced the original Young and Dangerous films. It is safe to say that if he’s not out there doing goofball-style films, then gangster films are truly his forte.

It is clear that action star Donnie Yen is slowly branching out into roles that allow him to do both his frenetic action skills and even turn in some dramatic chops as well. Ip Man was just the beginning of that transition period, but this film is truly becoming to take that cake. In what is a very bold move, Yen gets to mesh the two strengths in the first half of the film only to take the dramatic side in the second half as his character is in fact crippled. Yen’s character Crippled Ho is based on a real-life Hong Kong gangster, Ng Sek-Ho, who was one of Hong Kong’s most notorious drug lords. Yen pulls off all the stops to tackle the role and does quite a great job of it.

As for Andy Lau, the Heavenly King returns to a familiar role. In 1991, he starred in a two-part film series produced by Wong and directed by Lawrence Lau entitled Lee Rock. The film series was based on Lui Lok, a real-life officer who was involved in major corruption during the 60’s and 70’s. Lau reprises that role and having played the role before, he just seems like a natural fit. Not only does this film bring some excitement that we have Donnie Yen and Andy Lau in the same film, but they actually play each other well.

What many will find extremely important is that while the focus of the film is on Crippled Ho and Lee Rock, the film has no real good guys at all. As a matter of fact, all of the important characters are extremely bad guys with no remorse towards their actions. Aside from Ho and Lee, we have Kent Tong’s Ngan Tong, who starts out as Lee’s superior only to become his biggest rival within the ranks of the police force. Bryan Larkin’s Hunter is the notorious British officer who has a hatred towards Chinese and yet, he finds himself in a situation where he and Lee have to show some sort of respect towards each other because of their profession. Even Ben Ng’s Chubby switches gears from ruthless to benevolent to even more ruthless as it is he who seals Ho’s fate in the first half of the film.

Chasing the Dragon is a film that proves that one, Wong Jing can make some pretty good serious films; two, Donnie Yen can be a solid actor with dramatic chops; and three, just because a film is about gangsters, there don’t need to be any good guys and this is a film where all the important characters are notorious and if need be, ruthless.


An Infinitus Motion Picture/Bona Film Group/Sun Entertainment Culture Limited/Mega-Vision Project Workshop Limited production in association with Sil-Metropole Organisation, Rock Partner Films, and Red Carpet Cultural Industry Investment Fund. Directors: Wong Jing and Jason Kwan. Producers: Wong Jing, Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Connie Wong, Ren Yue, Jeffrey Chan, Stanley Tong, and Yang Guang. Writers: Wong Jing, Jason Kwan, Philip Lui, and Howard Yip. Cinematography: Jason Kwan, Ko Chiu-Lam, and Jimmy Kwok. Editing: Li Ka-Wing.

Cast: Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Kent Cheng, Ben Ng, Kent Tong, Phillip Keung, Wilfred Lau, Yu Kang, Michelle Hu, Xu Dong-Dong, Felix Wong, Niki Chow, Bryan Larkin, Philip Ng, Jonathan Lee, Lawrence Chou, Wang Qianyu.

The Adventurers (2017)

theadventurers Hong-kong-icon

Andy Lau attempts at the biggest heist of his life in this loose adaptation of a John Woo classic from actor/musician turned director Stephen Fung.

Five years ago, master thief Zhang Dan attempted to steal one third of a prominent necklace known as Gaia. However, he found himself set up and put in prison. Having now been released, Zhang intends to find out who set him up while attempting to get the remaining pieces of Gaia so he can retire. Joining forces with his protege Chen Po and new team member Red Ye, Zhang finds himself trailed by French police officer Pierre, who was the very officer who put Zhang in jail five years ago.

When Zhang and his team successfully infiltrate a popular actress’ event and steals her necklace, which was up for auction for a charity, Zhang has one piece left to get. To accomplish this, Zhang must use Red as a pawn to infiltrate rich man Charlie Luo to get that final piece of Gaia. Meanwhile, Pierre finds himself an ally in Amber Li, an expert in curation who was once Zhang’s fiancee. While Pierre and Amber are hot on Zhang’s trail, complications will soon arise, threatening to end this final heist for the master thief.

You have got to hand it to Stephen Fung. The actor and musician turned director has churned out quite a filmography when it comes to his directing. From his directorial debut in 2004’s Enter the Phoenix to 2012’s kung fu-steampunk hybrid Tai Chi Zero and Tai Chi Hero, Fung’s brand of action has gained quite a following. His latest film, a loose adaptation of the John Woo classic Once a Thief, is a fun and wild action ride that keeps you wanting to root for our central character, master thief Zhang Dan.

And who better to play this thief than the Heavenly King Andy Lau? Lau is wonderful as the central character who thrives in doing his job but still feels conflicted. Having been released from prison in the film’s opening, Zhang feels he must get the job done as well as find out who was responsible for putting him in prison in the first place. The legendary Jean Reno serves as the “cat” to Lau’s “mouse” in the game as his Pierre is convinced that Zhang is not finished with business yet. However, despite his misgivings, there seems to be a line of respect between the two that goes back to the very day Zhang is arrested, resulting in that prison time.

Yo Yang serves up comic relief as Zhang’s protege Po, who when doing his scenes with Shu Qi (who married director Fung during the making of the film), attempts at wooing her with well, the expected results of rejection. Zhang Jingchu is perhaps the most conflicted character in Amber, the ex-fiancee of Zhang who wants to help Pierre perhaps for revenge, but yet still has a bit of a flame for her ex-lover. Eric Tsang makes the most of his role as Kong, Zhang’s mentor and handler, while Sha Yi gets the most of his role as Charlie, the owner of one of the Gaia pieces, with whom Shu Qi must use some flirtation with in order for the team to nab it.

The action sequences are quite fun. While they don’t really comprise of fistacuffs, they are still fun nonetheless. There are vehicle chase scenes that are up to par with the likes of The Transporter and Ronin amongst others. Shane Hurlbut’s cinematography is quite impressive when it comes to both action and the amazing aerial shots of the cities the film was set in, as Fung decided to use drone technology to capture these amazing views of the cities.

In conclusion, The Adventurers is a pretty fun heist flick. It is clear why Stephen Fung has truly made his mark on directing action films. Some great performances by Andy Lau and Jean Reno, blended some some stunning cinematography of the cities and some nice twists and turns in the film make this worth checking out.


Infinitus Motion Pictures present a Mannix Filming Co. Ltd. Production in association with Media Asia Films. Director: Stephen Fung. Producers: Stephen Fung, Andy Lau, Jiang Ping, Chen Jiande, Tomas Krejci, and Radomir Docekai. Writers: Stephen Fung, Lo Yiu-Fai, Steve Ha, Cheung Chi-Kwong, and Wong Hiu-Chong. Cinematography: Shane Hurlbut. Editing: Angie Lam and Joel Cox.

Cast: Andy Lau, Jean Reno, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Yo Yang, Eric Tsang, Sha Yi, You Tian-Yi, Karel Dobry.