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New Chinese movie set to revive action genre

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-25 06:56

The movie isn't about a superhero, nor is it adapted from a comic book, but since its release two years ago, it has attracted the kind of attention that's rare for a Chinese production.

Audiences are in for more, with Black &White: The Dawn of Justice, the second movie in the action series Black &White, set to hit the country's theaters on Oct 1.

Tsai Yueh-hsun, the director from Taiwan, famous for his dramas represented by Meteor Garden years ago, believes that audiences were drawn to the first movie because it "went beyond pretty faces".

Nevertheless, this new installment does not lack them. The cast is led by young actors Mark Chao from Taiwan and Lin Gengxin from the mainland.

This cross-Straits cooperative 3-D production was developed from Tsai's popular 2009 TV series. Comedian Huang Bo, who played a leading role in the first episode, makes a guest appearance in the new film.

Tsai likens the latest movie to an "industrial revolution", at least for Chinese cinema. With a budget of more than 100 million yuan ($16.2 million), the movie's action scenes have been worked upon by the visual effects squad for the Hollywood blockbusters Fast Five and Thor, and other action designers. "When different people gather together with multiple working styles, chemistry will happen," Lin says of his excitement while shooting the movie in spite of being a newbie in the action arena.

The movie has ample on-screen bomb blasts and collapsing constructions.

Set in the fictional Harbor City, the protagonist named Wu Yingxiong (yingxiong means hero in Chinese) is the city's savior.

It could remind spectators of Batman's Gotham City for its despair after villains hold the city to ransom as they eliminate the police force and Batman comes out to save the residents. It also has an on-screen catastrophe familiar to Hollywood fans: biochemical weapons containing a deadly virus that's facilitated by a renegade with a "cause" to attack innocent people.

The storyline appears to have been inspired by Hollywood classic The Rock (1996), but Tsai has taken a creative approach by playing the main villain himself. He last acted in a film more than a decade ago.

The director does not include his name in the end credits for cast, adding he was reluctant to take the role at first.

"It was my wife (also the film's chief producer), who kept encouraging me to return to acting, and said that there was a lack of money to hire a big shot to play the villain. I wouldn't agree," Tsai says mockingly. "I expect my role to only live in the movie, and not connect it with myself."

It, however, remains unclear if Tsai will be directing a third movie along the same lines.

"But I can ensure you that the villain I played has died," he says, perhaps in an indication that a third in the series will have a fresh storyline.

It is interesting to note that Tsai has the courage to make pure action movies, despite the low season for such flicks since Jet Li and Jackie Chan peaked years ago. Tsai also doesn't seem bothered with the strong competition he faces at the box office from other movies being released during the National Day holidays.

"What matters more than a number is that filmgoers notice how Chinese-language action movies have progressed," he says. "Audiences will understand how much we've endeavored to rebuild the fame."

New Chinese movie set to revive action genre

From left: Director Tsai Yueh-hsun, actor Huang Bo, actress Janine Chang and actor Mark Chao at the news conference for Black &White: The Dawn of Justice in Beijing. Wang Kaihao / China Daily

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