My Lucky Stars Review
My Lucky Stars
, a sequel of sorts to Winners and Sinners, was a raging success when it was released in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year 1985. This was a film that went from conception to completion in just three months yet it managed to take a staggering $30 million HKD over the course of its cinematic run as it drew in the Hong Kong audiences thanks to its huge array of big name stars, exciting action sequences and a heavy dose of traditionally simple comedy that is consistently popular in Hong Kong movies but even more so for the light hearted new years releases.
The film opens with two Hong Kong cops, 'Muscles' (Jackie Chan) and Ricky (Yuen Biao) in Japan where they are undercover and trying to capture two criminals (played by Lam Ching Ying and Lau Kar Wing). For this attempt we are treated to a car chase with a daring stunt and a fight sequence set in a Japanese amusement park which sees Muscles and Ricky face off against a group of ninjas. After this battle Ricky is rendered unconcious and is kidnapped, leaving Muscles alone and in need of assistance to continue the mission. The only person capable of helping him is 'Kidstuff', a convict portrayed by Sammo Hung who, after a quick phonecall, is soon released to help his old friend.
From this point on the film moves back to Hong Kong where Kidstuff gathers a questionable group of friends who he apparently needs to complete the mission. Each of these friends have equally ridiculous names and are portrayed by a range of stars that are made up of Charlie Chin (as Herb), Richard Ng (as Sandy), Eric Tsang (as Roundhead) and Shui-Fan Fung (as Rawhide). Herb and Rawhide are thieves, Sandy a self-admitted mental patient who is currently obsessed with telekinesis, while Roundhead is a simple fellow who is picked on by his compatriots. Together again the gang are soon joined (much to their pleasure) by Miss Woo (Sibelle Hu) who is the police officer in charge of their mission to rescue Ricky and help Muscles capture the criminals seeking refuge with a Japanese gang.
As you might expect from an action comedy the film culminates with a showdown between the good guys and the bad guys and in this respect it certainly does not disappoint, but sadly what goes before does and mutes much of the finales impact. The problem with My Lucky Stars lies with the lengthy comedic sequences that offer very little in the way of progressing the films storyline and worse still, even less in the way of laughs. Personally I am very much a fan of the comedy traditionally seen in Hong Kong action movies that is often very simple and quite silly, but interspersed between a healthy mixture of action and drama it works extremely well to make an entertaining whole. Sadly for My Lucky Stars they forgot two vital parts of this mixture and left us with 40 minutes of very basic comedy that ranges from rivalry amongst different culture groups in Hong Kong to the most common form of comedy seen in My Lucky Stars that sees the five cons trying to, how shall we say, 'cop a feel' off Miss Woo. The only comedic talent on board who manages to offer laugh out loud moments is the always-brilliant Richard Ng, whose characters fixation with telekinesis and a humorous portrayal of the 'Snake' martial arts style lie head and shoulders above every other comedic sequence in the film. These moments aside the mid part of the movie soon becomes a tedious affair that will leave you restless and as a result My Lucky Stars is barely saved by its final half hour.
At this pivotal point we are re-introduced to Muscles (Jackie Chan, who is absent for much of the films proceedings) and the story gets back into motion as we are finally treated to some of that fine action choreography we have come to expect from Sammo, Jackie and Biao. Indeed My Lucky Stars does not disappoint as we are treated to a thoroughly action packed finale that sees Jackie fight his way through an amusement parks house of wonders that offers a range of background settings from a traditional Japanese house to an icy land full of ninjas. More is yet to come though as he meets up with Sammo and the gang at the enemies Japanese headquarters where we see several fine match ups that include Jackie against the formidable Dick Wei, Sammo squaring up with Lau Kar Wing, Sibelle Hu facing the beautiful but deadly Michiko Nishiwaki and to a lesser extent (because his role is so minor its almost a cameo) Yuen Biao who is fighting with Mr. Vampire himself, Lam Ching Ying. These pairings are beautifully choreographed, flawlessly performed (Sammo and Jackies fights in particular) and superbly edited but it still comes as too little too late in a film that while mildly entertaining, could have been so much more given the talent on board.
This Hong Kong Legends DVD is Region 2 and 4 encoded.
Sadly My Lucky Stars did not pass through the BBFC unscathed and there are two cuts totalling 11 seconds to this DVD release. The first cut takes place when Sammo's character, Kidstuff, is seen breaking into a car. This scene has been trimmed slightly as it was deemed an 'imitable technique'. The official blurb from the BBFC is as follows...
One compulsory cut was required to the sight of a car being stolen with the aid of a piece of wire on the grounds that this is an imitable technique that requires removal under the Video Recording Act of 1984.
This cut in particular shows the typical inconsistency of the BBFC as the scene is already available in its entirety on the Biography Showcase for Sammo Hung on Hong Kong Legends Encounters of the Spooky Kind DVD.
There is also a second unreported cut from the BBFC that sees a line of dialogue removed. The line in question is something like "Let's go rape her". It's not exactly subtle but the line is aimed jokingly at Miss Woo in amongst one of the many comedy sequences. The BBFC have given no explanation for this cut and would not allow it on a higher certificate.
Having not seen the film before I was hoping that the cuts would go by unnoticed. While the first cut is not that significant to the first time viewer (Sammo goes from selecting his tool of the trade to gaining access to the car in one swift edit), the second cut is particularly noticeable as it takes place amidst the comedy sequences involving Sammo et al lusting after Miss Woo, and sees Sammo receive a well placed kick to the chest for seemingly no reason at all as the dialogue that made him deserving of such a move has been removed in its entirety.
An uncut R0 release from Universe is available for those who cannot tolerate the BBFCs decision.
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of approximately 1.92:1 this is presumably slightly opened up from the original aspect ratio (which is most likely 1.85:1) but it does not harm the composition in any way. Like most recent Hong Kong Legends releases the print used has been restored to almost immaculate condition though you will notice a few more blemishes than usual as white and black specks and lines are visible on occasion. Other than that what we have here is a very good transfer that with minimal grain offers fairly high detail levels throughout and vibrant colours with bold black levels to boot. There were no compression problems to note although the layer change could have been handled with more care.
One final issue I should mention is that of the occasional scene interspersed throughout the films running time where the image seems to 'shake' ever so slightly. Now, this could be down to a nervous cameraman or it could be a fault with the print HKL sourced, having not seen any other renditions of My Lucky Stars I cannot say. Either way, its something I only barely noticed but that does not mean others will not find it more blatant as it really comes down to your sensitivity to issues such as this.
The preferred original Cantonese language track has been given another fine DD5.1 remix that sees the rear speakers utilised to project the films rather lacklustre score around the room while they are also used on occasion to good effect for ambient sounds (the opening sequence at the train station and later in the Coca Cola factory are good examples). Otherwise this is a fairly basic but faithful mix that presents the all-important dialogue cleanly via the centre speaker with the odd directional effect when required. An alternative English Dub is also provided that uses the same mix but with different dialogue.
The English subtitles are presented using an easy to read white font (though a slightly thicker black outline would have been preferable in places due to the generally light cinematography) while there are no signs of spelling or grammatical errors with the exception of one line that will most likely go by unnoticed on first viewing.
Bey Logan returns once again and does not disappoint as he delivers another fact filled audio commentary that sees him working overtime when it comes to pointing out the many stars that are featured as My Lucky Stars really is packed solid with actors and directors that have gone on to bigger and better things. In between the character spotting Bey delivers a plethora of well-researched information on the films production including location details and the occasional story from the set including one Sammo related tale that has Bey literally laughing out loud as he relays it to us. One area of this commentary track that is sure to cause much controversy amongst the Hong Kong movies fan base is that of Bey's personal opinion regarding the 're-cutting' of Hong Kong movies for western audiences. Bey has much to say in this area (which is tied in to My Lucky Stars as it too was subject to cuts for its international version, though of course Hong Kong Legends have provided us with the original Hong Kong Theatrical print) and what he has to say may see some of the more passionate amongst you screaming with dismay at your television screen.
An all new interview with Japanese actress and stuntwomen Michiko Nishiwaki is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (as are all of the extra features on this disc) and sees the stunning power lifting champion discuss her time on My Lucky Stars for just over 20-minutes. As this was her first role in a movie Michiko quite understandably talks fondly regarding the project and recollects a great deal from the set including her impressions on not only Sammo, Jackie and Yuen Biao but also the likes of Dick Wei, Chin Siu Ho and more with many stories to tell for each of them. Also present on the disc is an interview with director Sammo Hung that runs for 18-minutes and is again all new footage (from the same interview session as seen on most HKL releases). Here we see Sammo discuss the short time period he had to make My Lucky Stars while he also offers thoughts on the story and the actors involved. For the latter part of the interview Sammo discusses the roles of stuntmen in the Hong Kong movie industry and also delights fans as he talks about his legendary weapons fighting skills. Including some teasing clips from forthcoming HKL releases Winners and Sinners and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars both of these interviews are fine additions to the disc as they are both informative and entertaining thanks to the lively interviewees.
Rounding off the extra features section of the disc is a Trailer Gallery that includes the original Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer and the UK Promotional Trailer for My Lucky Stars, the latter of which actually includes a few extra frames of the 'car stealing' footage that was cut from the main feature. You will also find two TV Spots for Project A present on the disc that are somewhat of a bonus considering they are not present on the Project A Platinum Edition and I certainly never saw them on TV!
Finally I should point out that the originally scheduled and much requested rare Japanese Outtakes reel is not present on this disc.
For anyone that finds the comedy often seen in Hong Kong action movies a chore then I would advise you to steer well clear of My Lucky Stars as even I, a fan of such comedy, found the lengthy (and quite honestly sub-par) doses present hard to tolerate. This really is a movie for the more dedicated fans who will look past the many flaws to the quite riveting final action set pieces, though even that may not be enough for some. As for the disc, well it is another solid effort from the team at Hong Kong Legends that includes a fine audio commentary from Bey Logan that raises the discs recommendation value to the fans, though the BBFC cuts may well counter that attraction. On that note I would like to say that while I in no way condone these cuts, I really do not think they hurt the movie in any great way so for those looking to purchase My Lucky Stars then this DVD release is the way to go.