Hong Kong, 2010, colour, 1.85:1, 100 mins.
Director: Luo Shouyao 罗守耀 [Dennis Law].
Disappointing modern vampire movie gets some heft from Mainland action queen Jiang Luxia.
Hong Kong, the present day. With her parents dead and her elder sister Su (Zhang Wenci) long vanished, illiterate Ya (Jiang Luxia) lives alone in poverty, carrying on the family tradition of hunting and killing vampires. Her only friend is Si (Zhou Xiuna), a vegetarian vampire who lives close by, with whom she has formed a deep relationship. Si is one of group of young vampires, including her brother Li (Ji Huanbo), who are led by Si’s womanising father Long (Qian Xiaohao) and who drink animal rather than human blood. One night, Qing dynasty vampire-eating vampire Meng (Yuan Hua) appears on the scene, along with Su, whom he turned into vampire eight years ago, in his power. Meng starts picking off Long’s group but then has to deal with the determined Ya, who is prepared to do anything to kill him.
The main reason for watching Vampire Warriors 僵尸新战士 is to follow the still-developing career of Mainland-born wushu champion Jiang Luxia 蒋璐霞, one of East Asia’s new generation of top action babes alongside Japan’s Takeda Rina 武田 梨奈 (High-Kick Girl! ハイキック・ガール!, 2009) and Thailand’s Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda (Chocolate ช็อคโกแลต, 2008). Jiang’s proven fighting skills just need a high-profile vehicle to launch her wider than the action-addict market. Vampire Warriors, her second film for one-man-1980s-revivalist Luo Shouyao 罗守耀 [Dennis Law] after Bad Blood 灭门 (2010) isn’t that vehicle – in fact, with only four short, if explosive, fight scenes, it’s inferior overall to Bad Blood – but when Jiang is on screen the picture does come to life.
Jiang’s tough, tomboy screen persona is pushed an extra couple of inches here with loads of Sapphic subtext in her relationship with a cute vampire neighbour, played okay by Mainland-born, Hong Kong-based pseudo-model Zhou Xiuna 周秀娜. Given the film has little in the way of a main plot (looking for her sister, a vampire hunter comes up against a super-vampire), this all-but-overt lesbian strand is the most interesting in the movie – to see how far writer-director Luo will push it. As an non-action actress, Jiang still has a long way to go, though she occasionally mines a softer side here.
When it comes, the action is good, if brief, with plenty of wire-work and refreshingly 1980s-style action staged by Li Zhongzhi 李忠志 [Nicky Li]. Veteran stunt actor Yuan Hua 元华 makes a good, insouciant villain and comes with a tribute to 1985 classic Mr. Vampire 僵尸先生 attached. But between the action, Luo’s direction and dialogue coast along in neutral, showing again his pressing need for collaborators.
Presented by Point Of View Movie Production (HK). Produced by Point Of View Movie Production (HK).
Script: Luo Shouyao [Dennis Law]. Photography: Qiu Litao [Herman Yau]. Editing: Qiu Zhiwei [Yau Chi-wai]. Music: Wei Qiliang [Tommy Wai]. Art direction: Mo Shaozong [Alex Mok]. Costume design: Feng Junmeng. Sound: Liang Zonghou, Wang Qingsheng. Action: Li Zhongzhi [Nicky Li]. Visual effects: Li Wenjun, Yu Guoliang (Free-D Workshop).
Cast: Yuan Hua (Meng), Jiang Luxia (Ya/Ar), Zhou Xiuna (Si/Max), Qian Xiaohao (Long/Dad), Xiong Xinxin (Gong), Zhang Wenci (Su/Sue), Lu Songzhi (Jia), Pei Yin (Lian), Ji Huanbo (Li/Rex), Lin Xitong (Ying/Babe), Deng Shangwen (Mei), Chen Yuxi (Xi), Wu Yan’an (Ann), He Haowen (Don), La Ying (Lay), Chen Jingyi (Wendy), Huang Xueying (Wendy), Wen Ziling (Lena), He Zhuoying (Joey), Yu Xiaotong (Susan), He Peiyu (Kate), Wang Lijia (Yoyo), Huang Tianhao (Avis), Ma Qinxi (Baby), Xu Biji (Far), Dong Fangyuan (Pansy), Zhu Senlin, Zhao Xuanlong, Liu Jiandong, Ma Tengfei, Li Xiwei (vampires).
Release: Hong Kong, 11 Nov 2010.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 9 Feb 2011.)