Veteran Hong Kong director Benny Chan's unexpected death (23 August 2020) was a huge shock to Asian film fans around the world. Benny Chan was one of the industry's most well-respected action filmmakers, he was best known for his ability to blend great, slick action with a palpable, emotional centre. Despite leaving this world at a young age (Benny was 58 ), Benny Chan was able to cultivate a strong following for his films, both locally and internationally over the past 30 years. To do our part and honour his legacy, we present here 5 of Benny Chan's must-watch films for your viewing pleasure.
A Moment Of Romance
Despite being a love story, A Moment of Romance is still just as action-packed as you would expect from Benny Chan. It's considered a Hong Kong cinema classic and was one of the most popular and imitated films in Hong Kong throughout the 90s. In fact, Andy Lau was nicknamed "Wah Dee" because of the character he portrays in the film that goes by the same name. The story follows a young triad gangster named Wah Dee, a gateway driver for his compatriots during a bank heist. The heist nearly ends up being a disaster if not for Wah Dee taking a young woman named Jo Jo hostage. After preventing his accomplices from getting rid of her, Wah Dee and Jo Jo begin a romantic relationship. However, things become complicated as Jo Jo becomes tangled in the violent gangster life of Wah Dee, whilst her parents disapprove of their seemingly incompatible relationship.
New Police Story is Benny Chan's reboot of the beloved Police Story franchise, starring none other than the legendary Jackie Chan. However, New Police Story's portrayal of action and drama is much more visceral than its predecessors. It even has a similar feel to another of Benny Chan's films - Raging Fire. The plot features Inspector Chan Kwok-wing of the Hong Kong Police Force, who is called together with his squad to arrest a gang after their hideout is revealed. However, it turns out that the operation is rigged, the squad is ambushed, and everyone except Inspector Chan is killed. Feeling guilty for the death of his squad-mates, Chan becomes a hapless drunk. A young man with a troubled past and pretending to be a police officer is assigned to Chan and eventually helps to bring him back on his feet in an attempt to bring down the gang that caused so much misery.
Another film starring Jackie Chan, Who Am I? is co-directed by both Jackie and Benny Chan. This action comedy is also Jackie Chan's second film to be screened and shot in English. The story begins with a military agent on a top-secret mission within a South African jungle, tasked with apprehending three scientists who are experimenting with powerful minerals. The secret agent wakes up in a tribal village somewhere in the African veldt, still recovering from injuries sustained from an accident he does not remember (eventually, we find out that his helicopter crashed). He has no memory of his past or identity. When asked for his name by the natives, he responds by asking "Who am I?", and thus that becomes his assigned name. To rediscover his identity and find out what's going on, the agent is joined by a journalist and a rally co-driver. Together, they travel all the way to Rotterdam where Who Am I discovers the location of the organisation that kidnapped the three scientists.
As the name of the film indicates, Shaolin portrays martial arts at its finest. This film is violent, nicely paced, and flows beautifully between scenes. The plot takes place in a China that has been plunged into darkness as feuding warlords attempt to expand their power by battling over neighbouring lands. A young and arrogant warrior named Hao Jie is fuelled by his success on the battlefield after killing a rival warlord on Shaolin temple grounds. However, the tide turns and Hao Jie's family is wiped out, forcing him to seek refuge with the Shaolin monks. As doom and death loom closer, Hao and the Shaolin masters are forced to rally together to launch a daring plan of rescue and escape.
Big Bullet is a powerhouse of an action film with incredible editing and one of the best Hong Kong action films released in the 90s (in this writer's opinion). After assaulting his tactical commander during a raid gone wrong, a maverick cop named Bill Zhu is demoted to the emergency unit, a position long-considered a dumping ground for out-of-favour cops. He finds himself in charge of a small team of motley department cohorts. When mob members kill one of his ex-colleagues during a turf-war hit, Zhu and his team embark on a mission of revenge against the gangsters. Their pursuit culminates in a hair-raising showdown atop a hijacked transport plane.
Possibly one of Benny Chan's best films to be released in the 21st century, Call of Heroes is a Chinese wuxia epic that takes inspiration from samurai dramas and spaghetti Westerns. Furthermore, with action direction choreographed by Sammo Hung and with Louis Koo in the lead, you just know that this film is off-the-charts awesome. The film takes places in the 1910's, where warlords in China battled amongst one another for power and territory. Cao Ying was the most vicious among them, striking fear by killing and conquering. Cao's son, Cao Shaolun travels to the remote rural of village of Pucheng and relentlessly kills its innocent inhabitants. A group of spirited villagers decide to stand up to a warlord's psychopath son, who is protected by a Commander with proficient martial arts skills as well as a small army.
Also starring Louis Koo, Connected is perhaps one of Benny Chan's most underrated works. It is a remake of the U.S. film Cellular and Chan spent two years working on the script. This action thriller begins with a single-father named Bob, whose life is seldom exciting as he works to make ends meet as a dead-end debt collector. His easy-going and helpful personality leaves him prone to putting himself under immense amounts of pressure to be a better father, worker, and overall individual. In the midst of all this, he must also deal with his sister who threatens to move to China with his son in the hopes that Bob begins to clean up his act. One day, Bob receives a call out of the blue from a stranger named Grace who claims that a kidnapper is holding her hostage and begs him to save her and her son. Is it just a harmless prank call, or does Bob need to act fast and rescue this mysterious caller?
There are so many other incredible Benny Chan movies worth watching! Which is your favourite from this list? Which did we miss out on? Let us know in the comments!