More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Spiral (2021) by Peter Sobczynski

Woman in the Window, The (2021) by Peter Sobczynski

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Peter Sobczynski

Oxy Kingpins, The by Jay Seaver

Dry, The by Jay Seaver

Water Man, The by Jay Seaver

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America by Jay Seaver

About Endlessness by Rob Gonsalves

I Was a Simple Man by Jay Seaver

We're All Going to the World's Fair by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Storm Riders, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Comic book movies were about to change in 1998, even in Hong Kong."
3 stars

Even without watching its 2009 sequel for comparison, "The Storm Riders" has a throwback air to it, like the Hong Kong film industry long defined by knowing how to squeeze a lot out of what they had for a one-city market was playing a bit of catch-up before advances in technology and a drastic increase in their potential audience changed everything. It's a lot of things that hadn't often been put together in quite the same way before and wouldn't be since, but probably a real kick for fans of Ma Wing-Shing's comics at the time.

As it opens, Lord Conquer (Shin'ichi "Sonny" Chiba) is consolidating his hold over the martial-arts world, aching for a battle with the Sword Saint (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), but his geomancer, the Mud Buddha (Lai Yiu-Cheung) says it may not take place for ten years, and acquiring apprentices with certain birth-charts will help the process. Conquer is ruthless in how he finds and "recruits" ten-year-old Whispering Wind and Striding Cloud, raising them with daughter Charity and the already-adopted Frost. A decade later, Cloud (Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing), Wind (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin), and Frost (Michael Tse Tin-Wah) all have supernaturally-augmented martial arts skills, but cracks are starting to form, especially around the young men's feeling toward Charity (Kristy Yeung Kung-Yu) and their growing discomfort with Conquer's lust for power.

Never having read Ma's comics, or Hong Kong manhua in general, I'm not sure how faithful an adaptation this is, but it in many ways resembles the live-action adaptations of Japanese manga which compact several volumes of action into one two-hour feature, keenly aware that much of their audience will be upset if anything gets left out. As a result, it often has the feel of a greatest-hits album, including all of the most popular tracks that it has to have in the proper order but not having the interesting side tracks and discoveries. Characters are introduced and never given a lot to do, such as Muse, who would be a fun supporting character in an ongoing series but is kind of a waste of Shu Qi here, and there's an outright bananas detour toward the end that never seems to amount to anything. Screenwriter Manfred Wong Man-Chun kept all the pieces, but pared everything that held them together to the absolute minimum.

Fortunately, long-running comics don't exactly live or die on the intricacies of plot, but by how much the audience wants to come back to a certain setting and characters, and the cast seems to have a grand time with these larger-than-life figures. Aaron Kwok especially plays the blue-haired Cloud as all smoldering passion and rage ready to explode, whether he's striking a cool pose or snarling at a supposed friend. Fellow Canto-pop star Ekin Cheng has his work cut out for him in not making the kinder-hearted Wind seem kind of drab in comparison, but manages; he's a complement when he could easily be relegated to sidekick status. There's a solid group up and down the supporting parts, from Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui as an obsequious Jester to Anthony Wong as a (semi) final boss worth shrouding in mystery. But mostly, there's Sonny Chiba - his Cantonese may be dubbed by actor Wong Wai, and the make-up to give him a more youthful appearance in the opening scenes may not be quite convincing, but he strides through every scene in a way that tells everybody that Conquer deserves to be on top, with an striking combination of icily pure ambition and personal nastiness. He's the sort of villain heroes are measured against because Chiba knows just how much movie-star charisma to hold back and let out.

He was a bit past his action-star prime at that point, but he can still handle a sword, and the film spends a lot of time showcasing powers and weapons as opposed to straight hand-to-hand. They don't always have the effects budget to pull it off as slickly as places would in a couple of years, although I do wonder if an early bit of green-screen work not being great helps sell the more elaborate and better-executed effects that come later. There's a vibe to it that's somewhere between Shaw Brothers and 1980s fantasy, and that sense of unreality is a good match for the comic-book fantasy material. It holds together even if there are areas where it could be tighter.

Ten years later, the Pang brothers would have more money and resources for a sequel, and it would be a fundamentally different thing - slicker and more stylish, but for all that an episode rather than something balancing epic ambitions and a tactile world the way this one does. Seen back-to-back, they're an eye-opening look at just how genre filmmaking changed in the the 2000s.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 04/19/21 00:24:11
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

2/17/12 Matthew Thompson Dalldorf What the hell is happening? Stop shaking the camera! 2 stars
7/05/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess The special effects redeem this film's only redeemable quality 2 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  26-Sep-2000 (PG-13)


  11-Dec-1998 (M)

Directed by
  Wai Keung Lau

Written by
  Wai Keung Lau

  Sonny Chiba
  Dior Cheng
  Aaron Kwok
  Michael Teo
  Kristy Yeung
  Heu Chi

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast