Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jumping Ash (Hong Kong, 1976)

I've just watched Josephine Siao & Leung Po-Chi's entry to the Hong Kong new wave genre JUMPING ASH from 1976! And what a gritty and awesome movie it is. The copy I watched is the Greek VHS which is sourced from an old and very scratched print but actually it seems right that it's so worn! Brings it down on the gritty street level you'll find in the movie. I don't know which release this YouTube clip is from but it actually looks too good. It looks too much like a film! No kidding.

By the way, when I use the term "Hong Kong new wave" it's not a reference to what kung fu message boards and most other Western film sites about Asian films refer to as "Hong Kong new wave" which is basically just any film made after John Woo's A BETTER TOMORROW and EVERY film from the 1980s and thru to 1997. The term New Wave was used by film scholars/reviewers in Hong Kong to describe a bunch of films made by first time directors in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Directors who made gritty films about HK and life in the then crown colony. You can read about it on Wiki - just remember Wiki is by no means perfect and you'll find that some yoyo simply haaad to add John Woo to the list of new wave directors probably because they thought it inconceivable that something as important as the NW genre would exist without the director who "saved" the HK film (at least in the eyes of action fans in the West). Anyway, if you wanna expand your HK film knowledge to more than just Shaw Brothers and heroic bloodshed then get hold of some of these films. And you could certainly start off with a much worse choice than JUMPING ASH.

Knetan's review from "Oh So Good..." site:
Headed by directorial rookies Josephine Siao (award winning actress in Summer Snow) and Leung Po-Chi (Hong Kong 1941), this gritty, documentary-esque Hong Kong cop thriller has the marks of stuff seen before and since. But thanks to a keen eye for placing the narrative amongst the Hong Kong people and the world they would be familiar with, Jumping Ash immerses well. Ga Lun is Callan Leong, whose cop life and straight line of administrating the law gets a bit blurred at times. Working in the Kowloon Walled City for instance, a little corruption, immoral attitude and bribes solves crimes in a society that's heading downhill. The big fish in the pond is drug king Tung (Nick Lam) however and the two killers from Amsterdam (Michael Chan and Chen Sing). The former protects Tung, the other wants him dead and the closer Callan gets to Tung, the closer he gets to co-operation with the opposite side....

Placing their camera quite effectively in the midst of environments alive with activity, the realism of Jumping Ash isn't a fashion statement at all. It adds to a sense of doom, grit, danger and the obvious social commentary about the struggles of the outnumbered cops. There are equally important moments of lightheartedness such as one scene with a stakeout at a brothel and Callan is both the clichéd movie cop and suitably struck out of a mold the filmmakers have witnessed on their beloved Hong Kong street. That mold contains some quite grave stupidity in terms of decision-making which leads to a questionable scene towards the end but no doubt, Jumping Ash remains important today. As a statement and view, even though it probably rightly won't be looked at as an edge of your seat work. Crude isn't bad in this case either and the worse print quality you can find of the film, probably serves of it. Josephine Siao also appears as Callan's wife.

Review by nameless person on Hong Kong Movie Data Base:
Po-Chih Leong's debut film was a trendsetter in Hong Kong cinema. Shot from the shoulder, the fast-moving world of cops, informers, drug dealers and other crooks are evoked in a very lively and realistic way. The action all takes place in carefully selected locations, among them the walled city of Kowloon and Yuen Long. The film looks like a documentary and evokes the kind of excitement usually seen in news programmes. The story focuses on the battle between two gangs and starts in Amsterdam, where one of the gang leaders is murdered. The male protagonists Jia Lun and Chen Huimin provide memorable acting achievements as the just cop and the cold-blooded killer."


  1. You know, Jack? I was also looking forward to see this movie & Coolie Killer for years. When I finally did I got a bit dissapointed. I don't know why, maybe it was too many years waiting for it & when I did they didn't reach my expectations. I think I "created" my own version of the movies in my mind & they didn't mach with the real ones.

    A movie that MUST BE recovered ( I think is dissapeared forever) is STRUGGLE FOR LEADER with almost the same cast of Jumping Ash. This movie was used by Tomas Tang for his Ninja Phantom & it is even better than Cops & Robbers or Man in the brink.
    The original cut of Struggle for leader is a real masterpiece. I have just seen the edited version of Tang & I have tried to find it in any format but I truly think there is no way. I even asked to Ryan Law the founder of HKMD but nothing.

  2. I know! That's how it is with films you desperately want to watch for years and years. Often they disappoint. Jumping Ash is not a huge masterpiece or anything. It'll probably be slightly more than a footnote in the chapter on New Wave films but that'll be it. I find it interesting simply because of it's gritiness and lack of feel-good'ness. And it's lack of shootout, kung fu, and slapstick. It belongs in a genre I've only just begun to discover.

    And too many of these New Wave film aren't even available on DVD or VCD. Boo-hoo.

    I haven't even heard of the ones you mention. :-(

  3. Thanks, Jack, for highlighting this.

    In Mel Tobias's book, JUMPING ASH is spoken of in a very positive light. I have always wanted to see it, but have never been able to locate a VCD or DVD.

    Has anything other than a VHS been released anywhere.

    I am most interested in early 70's, non-Shaw, non-period Hong Kong movies, and this fits the bill.

    I like COOLIE KILLER, by the way.

  4. hello phantom of the pulp...Saviour starring Pai ying gave me what I found missed in Coolie Killer.

    I also prefer this kind of cinema rather than the period one. It is like the italian polizieschos but starred by chinese people exploiting even the overexploited italian ones.

  5. Phantom, I'm aware of three different releases, none of them on DVD; The Greek tape which I have, the Ocean Shores VHS, and the HK VCD. The two video tapes are dubbed in English and the VCD has Cantonese/Mandarin audio but sadly no subs. Btw, I asked the guy who posted the clip on YouTube and it's from the OS VHS.

  6. Btw, about genres: I'm not at all big on kung fu movies either. I can watch a Jackie Chan once in a blue moon but his goofing around was never something I cared much for. SB kung fu films are probably very good but they just don't do much for me. And the old-skool "punch and block" martial arts films I really dislike. They're simply just too boring. I have the utmost respect for anybody who can sit thru these films. I just can't. "My" Hong Kong is that of the 80s + non martial arts from the 70s like Jumping Ash.

    I watched THE CRIMINALS 5 (which you reviewed, Phantom) the other night. Great stuff indeed! Very sad these VCDs are now so hard to find.

  7. I just read Mel Tobias' review from "Hongkong Standard" (1976) reprinted in "Memoirs of an Asian Moviegoer" and yeah he sure does like it - and coming from Tobias that kinda counts double since he's never afraid to write negatively about films. Is he still alive?