Monday, February 9, 2015

Jumping Ash

Director: Josephine Siao Fong Fong/Leung Po Chi
Starring: Ga Lun, Josephine Siao Fong Fong, Chen Sing, Michael Chan Wai Man, Nick Lam Wei Kei

This incredible little film is a perfect example of how not to judge a book by it's cover. Jumping Ash was one of several dozen Hong Kong vhs rentals courtesy of Ocean Shores that resided in my local video store back in the late 80s. It was also one of the few that I never bothered to rent. The cover seemed bland, the title didn't stand out for me and the modern day setting told me that this film was probably not going to be Fu friendly (which at that juncture was pretty much all that mattered to me). So I ignored it and forgot about it. Then about five years ago, the title was brought up in a very favorable way. I had only a vague memory of it at that point and made it my business to hunt it down (no easy task as it never received a dvd release). Finally getting my hands on a dupe (good luck finding the original vhs at this point), I decided to give it a watch and was so engrossed with it that I watched it again later that same evening. 

Marking the directorial debut of Leung Po Chi with assistance from actress turned part time filmmaker, Josephine Siao (who also doubles here as our main hero's put upon special lady friend), Jumping Ash stars an excellent and charasmatic  Ga Lun as small time detective, Callan Leong ( a cross between Popeye Doyle and Frank Serpico) who's out to bust big time drug kingpin, Tung (an effectively smarmy Nick Lam). Both cop and crimelord find their paths alternately dogged by a pair of killers from Amsterdam (the ever welcome pairing of old school martial art heavies Michael Chan and Chen Sing), the former hired to protect Tung while the latter looking to relieve him of his goods. When Callan ultimately oversteps his bounds and finds himself relieved of his duties, an unexpected alliance is formed...

Released in 1976, Jumping Ash has the look and feel of it's time period and yet it conversely features a frantic, off the cuff filming style that would not be found in Hong Kong cinema until the following decade. Despite it's low budget and depressing natural scenery, this film jumps right out at you from the get-go. It's quite obvious that what we're watching here is a group of young and talented  filmmakers who were truly looking to make something special and different. To that end, they succeeded admirably and then some. There is barely a slow or wasted moment during it's ninety-odd minutes and you truly feel as though you are privy to an actual police procedure. This is in part, due to the fact that the story itself is largely ripped right off the Hong Kong headlines lending the pic a welcomed unhealthy and downright dangerous atmosphere throughout. Even when the film bravely ventures into comedic episodes (the scene with the hooker is a riot and wait until you see where Callan decides to stash his new found Amsterdam ally), it somehow rings utterly true in spite of itself. Inspired work by all involved.

Complete with a quirky music score (one which led to a hit album, no less), Jumping Ash became a sensation in it's native land where it went on to become the highest grossing action film of the year. This is a film designed to appeal to the locals but it is such a pitch perfect and sure handed vehicle that it could be appreciated by anyone who's a fan of superior action movie making. A must-see.

Rating: 10/10