The Real Movie Violence of Hong Kong
In the 1990’s, the Hong Kong movie industry produced plenty of violent action movies, often dealing with organized crime. Movies like John Woo’s “The Killer” and “Hard-boiled” are famous, and are by many seen as classic action masterpieces.
It is slightly less familiar to most people that the violence not only took place in the movies, but also in the movie industry.
Hong Kong is considered one of the safer cities in the world (although of course events during the latest years has affected this — but this is not the focus of this article). Violence involving firearms is rare, and when it takes place its major news. But in the 1990’s it was a different story. Spectacular robberies and violent crimes involving automatic weapons were almost routine, and the police faced big challenges.
Perhaps the increased intensity of the violence was due to the fact that the Chinese takeover was approaching. Some criminals may have felt that this was their last shot before the new order was established.
It was during those violent years that a new type of Hong Kong action emerged. It is hard not to see a direct connection to the violent reality of the time.
More about the organized crime violence can be found in this article. The rest of this article will focus on the violence that took place in the movie industry.
Violence in the industry
The late 1980’s and the early 1990’s was a golden age for the Hong Kong movie industry. A large number of successful movies were produced, and they generated lots of money. But when the movie industry became a “safe investment”, it also became considered a safe way to launder money. Because of this, organized crime invested heavily in the industry.
Hundreds of films were produced every year, and sometimes there was a shortage of actors and directors. To get their way, sometimes crime syndicates used violent methods. Movie crews working on the streets of Hong Kong were at times blackmailed, and if any filming should be allowed — crime syndicates had to be payed a fee. If no fee was payed, equipment would be sabotaged and at times actors were threatened.
In January of 1992, the final scenes of the movie “All’s Well, Ends Well” were stolen before its premiere. The movie makers had to pay a large ransom to have the scenes returned.
Later in 1992, director Wong Long Lai (who is also rumoured to have been involved in organized crime) slapped actress Anita Mui when she refused to sing to him. The next day Wong Long Lai was stabbed, and during the following hospital stay he was shot nine times. He did not survive.
A few days later, Jimmy Choi Chi-Ming (the Manager of Jet Li) was shot dead outside his office. There is also a rumour that Choi Chi-Ming during the late 1980’s abducted actress Carina Lau and forced her to star in the movie “China White” in Amsterdam. It is also rumoured that Andy Lau (who is today one of Chinas most well-known actors) and Alex Man was forced to participate in the same movie, and that they were threatened with a gun.
The violence ends
When the popularity of Hong Kong movies faded, fewer films were produced. Less money was pumped into the movie industry, and at the same time the violent situation in general in Hong Kong calmed down. When it became harder to make money in the industry, the organized crime involvment decreased significantly.