The Storm Riders 風雲雄霸天下 (1998) - Hong Kong
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
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Fresh off the gangster cult following of the commercially successful “Young and Dangerous” series, Andrew Lau teams up with Ekin Cheng and the rest of the cast to film the comic book inspired “The Storm Riders”. The film will go on to be a major box office hit, aided by two big stars in Aaron Kwok and Sonny Chiba. Watching “The Storm Riders” again, after 22 years, there is a renewed sense of witness the film as a sum of its parts, some segments better than others with special effects taking a centerstage to the proceedings.
For Hong Kong cinema at the time, the film remains a centrefold as it goes on to shape numerous special effects and CGI enhanced productions in the region. The film manages to be a perfect summer action packed blockbuster, even if it struggles in its storyline, character development and emotional attachments. Aside from this, Lau does successfully takes us to another world completely during the duration, with fancy dialogue, interesting supporting characters, special effects all adding up to a mindless entertainment.
Aaron Kwok plays “Cloud” in a moody and physically demanding manner. Kwok with his boyish good looks produce a controlled matured performance with almost zero emotions on display. It would be another 7 years, before Kwok finds his mark as a Best Actor in “Divergence” (also coincidentally starring Ekin Cheng). Ekin Cheng on the other hand flairs worst, clearly out of his depth, seems to be phoning the same “Young and Dangerous” performance, looking noting lime a true Wuxia hero. Cheng struggles in more emotive scenes required and pales in comparison to the scene stealing Sonny Chiba. Chiba plays the conqueror and leader of the cult with full force and menace. It is the character that is provided the most backdrop as well as being a multi-dimensional villain. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” remains the key theme as Chiba powers his way into dominating the martial arts world and instilling fear over people through force and murders. Of course karma would eventually have its course of tale.
The supporting acts, remain the film’s core , with Kristy Yang being wonderful as the daughter and love interest of the duo, Wayne Lai provides depth to the important role of Mud Buddha and Shu Qi makes a lively performance as the daughter of a master herbalist and healer. Anthony Wong makes a dashing appearance as Chiba’a main ritual, through his departure remains comical. Alex Fong makes good use of his limited screen time as Cheng’s father, meanwhile, the always welcomed Yu Rongguang makes a memorable opening as Kwok’s father.
All in all, “The Storm Riders” remains an entertaining experience and manages to stand well despite the progress of CGI effects and remains one of the few Hong Kong production that exceeded itself at its time. Extra fun can be had for fans of “Young and Dangerous” series as the same cast of triad leaders are essentially inserted to various cult leaders roles. In terms of being a classic film, “The Storm Riders” fails for live up to that status as the plot line and main characters struggles to strike an emotional connection. It’s ultimately good cinematic ride, but like popcorns, it can eventually be empty.
I rated it 7.5/10
Wayne Lai as Mud Buddha