Bombshells and Boxers
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the New York Asian Film Festival has become something its gonzo founders never could have imagined: a cultural institution.
But don’t be fooled. Still crazy after all these years, the fest is, as ever, a delirious vortex of face-melting genre excess—an exhaustive, exhilarating rush of recent popular cinema from the East, giving its audience outlaw thrills even as it grants a hero’s welcome to the industry legends who were minting masterpieces when Quentin Tarantino was in knee pants.
There’s more of a retrospective tone to this year’s marathon, which seems appropriate for the decade mark. Hong Kong’s Tsui Hark, one of the architects of the Chinese new-wave that began in the 1980s, is a guest of honor, screening his latest (the visually stunning return-to-form “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame”) and greeting fans at “greatest-hits” revivals of gravity-defying Wu Xia epics, including the game-changing “Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain” (1983) and the samurai masterpiece “The Blade” (1995).
The mortal combat in South Korean director Ryoo Seung-Wan’s urban thrillers is contemporary and brutally earthbound. The filmmaker will be present for the premiere of his new film, “The Unjust,” a taut-sinewed police story that lays bare civic corruption and institutional apathy against the backdrop of serial killings and an imminent gang war. The fast-moving action will keep even alert viewers on their toes, even as bravura plot turns knock everything off balance.