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A true legend

ANN/THE STAR – After a hiatus of over five years from action films, martial arts actor Sammo Hung has returned to his forte – showcasing his skills in punching, kicking, and performing incredible stunts on the big screen.

The 72-year-old cinematic icon stars in the new action crime thriller Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In, which debuted in May. Featuring A-list co-stars such as Louis Koo, Aaron Kwok, Richie Jen, Philip Ng, and Raymond Lam, the martial arts film set a box-office record upon its premiere in Hong Kong, grossing over HKD5 million (MYR3 million) on its first day. It also dominated the Chinese mainland’s daily box-office chart for a week, earning over CNY15.72 million yuan (MYR10.2 million) in eight days.

In Malaysia, the film collected MYR3.2 million in the first three days of release.

Its success should be good news to Hung who has said he finds it heartbreaking to see the Hong Kong film industry being in a slump with not many movies turning in profits.

His own return to the big screen is for financial reasons, he told The Star in an email interview.

“One word – money,” he said of the reason that drew him to participate in Twilight Of The Warriors. “As it was during the pandemic and there were not many job offers, I thought ‘Why not?’”

Another reason, he added, was that the film was produced by Wilson Yip Wai Shun, with whom Hung worked as an action choreographer on films like Ip Man (2008), Ip Man 2 (2010) and Paradox (2017).

PHOTO: THE STAR & HANDOUT
Actors Raymond Lam, Sammo Hung and Philip Ng with director Soi Cheang. PHOTO: THE STAR & HANDOUT
Sammo Hung in a scene from ‘Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In’. PHOTO: THE STAR & HANDOUT
ABOVE & BELOW: Photos show Hung in scenes with Donnie Yen (‘Ip Man 2’) and Jackie Chan (‘Project A’). PHOTO: THE STAR & HANDOUT
PHOTO: THE STAR & HANDOUT

“I have worked with producer Yip on several projects previously, so when I received an offer to join this project, I said, ‘Why not?’”

For Twilight Of The Warriors, however, the famed action star stuck to his job as an actor and left the action choreography to the person in charge, Kenji Tanigaki.

He told The Star he performed his stunts without adding any “twists” to them.

“I’ve been an action choreographer, and I know it is a lot of work to figure out all the action sequences according to a scene while staying true to the essence of the whole movie.

“You can’t have just anyone come in and change it to how they want. For this movie, I trust Kenji san and I respect him and his team. I did my best to follow his choreography.”

Set in the 1980s at the infamous, crime-ridden Kowloon Walled City – which was torn down by 1993 – Twilight Of The Warriors is directed by Soi Cheang based on Andy Seto’s City Of Darkness comic book.

Hung plays the film’s main villain – a mob boss named Mr Big who is planning to invade the Walled City and take over the drug trade in that area.

Of course, many stand in his way including the current godfather of the city, Tornado (Koo), and Mr Big’s former employee Chan Lok Kwan (Lam), who had escaped to Kowloon Walled City to find a better life.

As seen in the trailer, The God Of War (2017) actor has a couple of explosive brawls in the film, including one where Mr Big faces off against Koo’s character.

Describing Koo as a “superb actor”, Hung told The Star that he’s impressed with the level of action his 53-year-old co-star is able to pull off in the film.

The duo’s most recent collaborations were in Paradox as well as when Hung directed Koo in the 2016 flick Call Of Heroes.

“It is very difficult to measure a movie star and an action movie star as they are very different. I can’t judge the action based on what I think this person should be able to perform; it’s not fair.

“The best approach is to focus on how to control and help elevate the performance. Teamwork is key,” Hung said.

“Having worked with Louis Koo before and having him as my ‘action sparring’ partner for this movie, I knew his capabilities.

“He likes to do the stunts himself and push the limits, so our action scenes were quite smooth.

“The action choreographer was also very careful (with my action sequences) and ensured I wouldn’t get injured, so I felt safe throughout filming.”

BIG SCREEN ACTION ICON

Hung is said to have gone for a knee operation in 2017 and has been seen using a wheelchair or walking stick.

When asked if he faced any challenges during the filming, the action maestro answered: “Frankly speaking, there wasn’t much of a challenge for me with these action scenes. It’s like a well-oiled chef – just a few moves and the dish is served.”

Hung practised martial arts from the age of nine until he was in his 50s.Using that skill, he not only became an action icon on the big screen, he helped reinvent the martial arts genre and started the horror-comedy-action blend of jiangshi (Chinese zombies) movies, such as Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1980).

He also combined martial arts with bawdy comedy in movies like the Lucky Stars trilogy (1980s and 1990s), which he directed and starred in.

Among those he calls friends are fellow martial arts stars Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

His reach goes beyond Hong Kong too.

Between 1998 and 2000, Hung appeared weekly on American TV playing a Shanghai cop who fights crime in the Los Angeles Police Department in the CBS TV series Martial Law.

Hung – who has the moniker “Dai Goh Dai” which translates roughly as Biggest Big Brother – is also widely credited for giving many stars their start in the Hong Kong film industry, including Oscar-winning Malaysian actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh who made her first-ever film appearance in his film The Owl Vs Bombo (1984).

“She’s a very hardworking person; she has put in a lot of effort. I think behind every successful person there’s a story of hard work,” he told South China Morning Post.

Similarly, he only had good things to say about his younger co-stars in Twilight Of The Warriors to The Star – namely TV actor Lam and Hong Kong-born American actor-martial artist Ng.

“I’ve not had the opportunity to work with Raymond Lam before, and even in this movie, we don’t have fight scenes together. But from what I’ve observed on set, he is really hardworking and holds nothing back. He goes all out.

“As for Philip Ng, I personally know him and have worked with him before. As a new generation actor, he is full of potential,” Hung said.

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