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Hong Kong, 1989 (MIFF 1991, Hong Kong)

Director: Jackie Chan

Hong Kong superstar, Jackie Chan, whose films combine breathtaking action, amazing stunts and self effacing humour, tries a change of pace with Mr Canton and Lady Rose. Based on a Damon Runyon story about rival gansters, dumb cops and a poor flower seller whose pretty daughter wants to break into high society. Set in the 30s the film opens with Chan as a naive newcomer to Hong Kong, fresh off the boat from Canton. Swindled out of his meager savings, his luck changes when he's persuaded to spend his last coins on a lucky rose. Almost immediately, he inherits a raffish gang of gamblers from their expiring boss, and finds himself in the money. He's also in the middle of a gang war, and facing the hamfisted investigations of Detective Ho and his men.

Much of the plot is freely borrowed from the Runyon story that formed the basis for two Frank Capra classics Lady For A Day and A Pocketful of Miracles (the film's original Hong Kong titles translating as "Miracles"). The flowers seller's beauteous daughter wants to marry the son of a fabulously wealthy Shangai merchant, and Chan and his men have to pose as members of Hong Kong's uppercrust to impress the woman's future in-laws. All this is handled with flair and a fine feeling for comedy. Chan and his formidable stunt team have devised a number of show stopping action sequences. A sequence in a rope factory is a classic of its own kind, and Chan obviously does all his own work.

Production design is a major asset, with much of the action taking place on a vast, beautifully designed outdoor set. The combination of action and comedy, plus the snappy, surefire direction, should enable this to find Chan fans everywhere.

(Adapted from) David Stratton Variety

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