Hong Kong remains a significant player in the cinematic world, despite headwinds from COVID-19. This year, Hong Kong managed to produce a number of great movies. Cinema Escapist is excited to compile a list of the 8 Best Hong Kong Movies of 2020.
The cinematic world of Hong Kong shifted more towards local indie films this year, something we celebrate at Cinema Escapist. Hong Kong’s best movies often no longer focus only on blockbuster theatrics. Instead, they increasingly showcase the lives of normal people in the city. While many of the best Hong Kong movies in 2020 were action movies and criminal thrillers, much of Hong Kong’s top movies from 2020 are more heartfelt dramas that highlight the struggles of the everyday people who live there.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best Hong Kong movies of 2020!
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8. Enter The Fat Dragon
Chinese title: 肥龍過江 | Director: Kenji Tanigaki | Starring: Donnie Yen, Teresa Mo, Niki Chow, Wong Jing| | Genre: Action, Comedy
After bidding farewell to the Ip Man franchise that catapulted him to international success, Donnie Yen ditches his wooden dummy and stoic demeanor for a fat suit and comedic chops in Enter the Fat Dragon, a remake of the 1978 film of the same name. The resulting action comedy succeeds with much charm, blending slapstick and screwball humor, romance, and of course, martial arts, into an hour and a half of delightful entertainment.
Yen plays a police man named Fallon Zhu with the best of intentions. After screwing up while trying to stop a bank robbery and nearly running over his supervisor, Zhu’s life falls into disrepair. Zhu’s superintendent demotes him, and his fiancée calls off their engagement. Over the next few months, Zhu eats his feelings, gaining 100 lbs of weight along the way.
Zhu gets a chance at redemption when he is sent to Japan to help extradite a fugitive. Ex-Hong Kong cop Thor (Wong Jing) teams up with him to fight the Japanese yakuza while winning the hearts of their respective unrequited loves.
Enter the Fat Dragon is hardly a serious film, but the novelty of Yen’s departure from kung-fu movies, combined with his great acting, earns the film a spot on our list of the best Hong Kong movies of 2020.
Check out our full review of Enter the Dat Dragon here!
7. Legally Declared Dead
Chinese title: 死因無可疑 | Director: Steven Yuen Kim-wai | Starring: Anthony Wong, Karena Lam, Carlos Chan, Kathy Yuen | Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama
Our next entry on the list of the best Hong Kong movies of 2020 is based on a Japanese novel and film adaptation called The Black House. Legally Declared Dead tells the story of insurance agent Yip Wing-shun (Carlos Chan) who gets involved in a supposed scheme where insurance frand meets murder. Chu Chung-tak (Anthony Wong) supposedly murders his stepson, staging it as a gruesome suicide, in order to collect a life insurance payout.
The rest of the film centers around Yip’s investigation into Chu and his wife Shum Chi-ling (Karena Lam), and increasingly dark plot elements come to light, putting Legally Declared Dead on the border of being a horror flick. Audiences can expect thrills and plot twists that will keep them engaged throughout.
6. Fatal Visit
Chinese title: 聖荷西謀殺案 | Director: Calvin Poon | Starring: Sammi Cheng, Charlene Choi, Tong Dawei | Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Fatal Visit is actually not set in the Lion City, but rather in bucolic San Jose, California. There are indeed a large number of immigrants from Greater China in San Jose, Fatal Visit focuses on the life of one wealthy Chinese businessman Tang (Tong) and his wife Ling (Cheng) who live together in a lake house. They enjoy happy, carefree live—but have dark pasts. It’s only when Yanny (Choi) comes to visit her childhood friend Ling that the skeletons in the closet come to light.
The film is a bit of a dramatic thriller, where the audience gets hints of everyone’s dark secrets through various flashbacks. Although it’s not always obvious in what sequence the flashback scenes actually happened in real time, Fatal Visit gives sufficient context for the audience to start piecing together everyone’s true stories. While the film gets off to a slow start, its latter half quickly accelerates in action and suspense as the facade of everyone’s idealistic lives comes crashing down.
Unfortunately, the film’s Chinese title 聖荷西謀殺案 (lit. “murder in San Jose”) gives away some of what the ending involves. However, between the suspense of the plot, and various scenes depicting the lives of overseas Chinese in the Bay Area, we think Fatal Visit earned itself a spot on our list of 2020’s top Hong Kong films.
5. The Rescue
Chinese title: 紧急救援 | Director: Dante Lam | Starring: Eddie Peng, Wang Yanlin, Xin Zhilei, Lan Yingying, Wang Yutian, Xu Yang | Genre: Action
Esteemed Hong Kong action director Dante Lam returns with his latest hit, The Rescue, dramatizing the heroism and athleticism of China’s ascendant Coast Guard.
The Rescue is a follow up to Lam’s previous action films celebrating Chinese force projection. His 2011 film Operation Mekong showed Chinese police working along the Mekong River to interdict drug smuggling gangs, while his 2018 hit Operation Red Sea showed that China too can deploy special forces to the Middle East. The Rescue differs from his prior works however, in that the “action” in the film revolves around the Chinese Coast Guard’s search & rescue functions, rather than its law enforcement side. In that sense, The Rescue lacks the gun battles that pumped Lam’s prior works full of adrenaline, but still contains daring rescues and demonstrations of bravery.
The Rescue earns itself a spot on our list of the best Hong Kong movies of 2020 owing to its portrayal of a very special part of China’s naval strategy that has become more relevant in recent years—its Coast Guard. Officially tasked with law enforcement and search & rescue in China’s territorial waters, the Chinese Coast Guard has often enforced Chinese claimsrights in disputed waters in the South China Sea and around the Diaoyu Islands.
While at times the film can feel a bit propagandistic, The Rescue actually does a more than adequate job of entertaining audiences with action-packed scenes where Coast Guardsmen must rescue airline passengers, truck drivers, and oil rig workers. Combined with some excellent visual effects work, The Rescue should provide ample entertainment while giving some context to contemporary geopolitics in Asia.
Check out our full review of The Rescue here!
4. Love After Love
Chinese title: 第一炉香 | Director: Ann Hui | Starring: Teng Cheng, Wei Li | Genre: Animation, Drama, Family
Renowned director Ann Hui offers up her third cinematic adaptation of an Eileen Chang work in Love After Love. The film is set in pre-war, British-occupied Hong Kong and offers a beautifully crafted, if not dark and wretched portrayal of the period.
The plot of Love After Love focuses on Ge Weilong (Ma Sichun), who moves in from mainland China to live with her wealthy (although somewhat estranged) aunt Madame Liang (Faye Yu). Liang reluctantly agrees to take in Weilong—but we quickly learn that she has a hidden agenda. Liang’s luxurious lifestyle is largely financed by wealthy British male benefactors, and she sees material benefits to having a young and beautiful lady in her household.
Love After Love showcases the glitzy side of colonial Hong Kong that many contemporary residents of the city nostalgically look back to. The overall production is well designed, featuring elegant, complex costumes alongside excellent set design and cinematography to boot. However, Love After Love drives home the point that the glamor of British rule is nothing more than a facade, propped up by a seedy underbelly of capitalist and imperialist exploitation.
3. The Shadows
Chinese title: 残影空间 | Director: Glenn Chan | Starring: Stephy Tang, Philip Keung, Tse Kwan-ho, Ben Yuen | Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Stephy Tang expands her repertoire as an actress in her latest film Shadows. In Shadows, she plays a psychiatrist (Ching) who tries to solve a murder mystery in which a social worker was told by an inner voice to kill his family and commit suicide. There’s just one twist—that inner voice might have been planted in the social worker’s head by Ching’s own psychiatrist, who also knows exactly how to push her buttons on her own traumatic past.
Shadows is a dark, psycho-thriller that will keep audiences on edge throughout the film. Tang herself was a bit traumatized by the process of making Shadows, telling the media that she experienced mood swings and would inexplicably start crying. Despite those challenges, Tang succeeded in executing a difficult role well, making the audience truly feel the darkness in Ching’s past. Alongside Tang, director Glenn Chan also deserves praise for his overall vision, including excellent cinematography, editing, and use of light to bring the inner workings of the human mind to real life.
Shadows premiered at the Gala Presentation of the 2020 Hong Kong International Film Festival, held with a limited program (albeit open to the public) due to COVID-19.
2. Suk Suk
Chinese title: 叔叔 | Director: Ray Yeung | Starring: Tai Bo, Ben Yuen, Patra Au | Genre: Drama, Romance, LGBTQ
The penultimate entry on our list of the best Hong Kong movies of 2020 features touching stories of Hong Kong’s LGTBQ community seeking acceptance in a conservative society. Suk Suk opens with vignettes of daily life in Hong Kong; Pak (Tai Bo) is an elderly taxi driver on the verge of retirement, with a family and grandchildren to boot. He picks up his grandkid from school, hosts family dinners , reads the newspaper, and bickers with his wife. One day, he meets Hoi in a park where gay men gather, and the two furtively try to figure out if each other are interested in them.
What follows is an exploration of the lives of LGTBQ people in Hong Kong (predominantly told through the lives of gay men). Hoi introduces Pak to the world of underground saunas where gay men meet to enjoy each other’s company—not just to have sex, but to share simple moments like having a meal together, since they cannot meet at home. While Hoi’s reticence to fully come out of the closet is due to the fact that his son is a devout Christian, Pak has other considerations—men in Chinese society are expected to raise children to continue the family name, and be a proud breadwinner of the family. The two struggle with their secret relationship much as a heterosexual couple would with an affair, but the two are plagued with additional complications resulting from the expectations cast upon them by a heteronormative society.
Suk Suk also features a group of activists who try to petition for more rights for LGBTBQ people in Hong Kong, especially elderly members of the community who want to be able to retire in a LGBTQ-friendly nursing home. The film features a scene based on real life where a gay rights activist passionately pleads for the government to allow them to live as they wish in their sunset years, after having given so much back to Hong Kong society. Suk Suk is a powerful exploration of the struggles that LGBTQ people face in Hong Kong, and it takes a uniquely Asian perspective on those challenges, highlighting how they might be different from Western Judeo-Christian taboos around homosexuality—earning it a spot on our list of the best Hong Kong movies of 2020.
1. My Prince Edward
Chinese title: 金都 | Director: Norris Wong | Starring: Stephy Tang, Pak Hong Chu, Nina Hee-Ching Paw, Jin Kaijie | Genre: Drama, Romance
Our pick for the top Hong Kong movie of 2020 is My Prince Edward. On the surface, the film has all the trappings of a romantic comedy. Hong Kong bridal shop worker Fong (Stephy Tang)’s long-term boyfriend Edward (Chu Pak-hong) proposes to her, but there’s a catch—Fong’s already married to mainlander Yang Shuwei (Jin Kaijie) in a secret fake marriage. However, the film is anything but romantic. Edward feels more like a dweeb than a prince, and Fong seems to be walking into marrying Edward without any passion, and more out of a sense of obligation.
My Prince Edward‘s unromantic drama highlights some of the struggles of young women in Hong Kong, as they seek to break out of the conservative norms of their parents’ generation. Director Norris Wong drew from her own experiences as a woman in the city when making the film; in an interview with Cinema Escapist, Wong said she saw many of her childhood friends follow the same path that Fong was about to embark on (“meet a man in college, go steady with him…get married by the time [they’re] thirty, and then have kids”).
Stephy Tang shines in her role as Fong, who develops from a dejected woman who has internalized all the expectations society cast on her, into an independent woman with a strong spirit by the end of the film. However, Hong Kong itself is also one of the stars of My Prince Edward. Aside from the great cinematography showcasing the bustle of the actual Prince Edward neighborhood, the film also touches on a topic close to many Hong Kongers daily lives—real estate prices. Much of the film revolves around Fong and Edward’s struggle to buy a home in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world.
Interested to learn more? Read our full review and interview with Norris Wong here!
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