Gordon Chan is one of those Hong Kong directors who made it to Hollywood. Not just once, but twice. But like all the others, he quickly returned to Hong Kong to wash away the bitter taste. Not that his Hong Kong work is absolute bliss, but it is at least a few steps up from the drab he directed in America.
Gordon Chan's fame rose together with Stephen Chow's. In the early 90s Chan released two Tao Xue Wei Long (Fight Back to School) films next to Mo Jong Yuen So Hak-Yi (King Of Beggars), fine examples of action films with a strong focus on comedy. It was the start of a period when anything touched by Chow would turn into gold and Chan was there to benefit from it.
Chan reschooled himself to action and martial cinema, once again attracting the biggest names in the genre. Pik Lik For (Thunderbolt) is Chan's collaboration with Jackie Chan, Fei Hu (The First Option) and more notably Jing Wu Jing Xiong (Fist of Legend) see Chan team up with Jet Li. When the rest of the Hong Kong movie industry started to crumble mid 90s, Chan was one of the few to keep on releasing decent action films, with Yeshou Xingjing (Beast Cops - a team effort with Dante Lam) as my personal favorite.
In 2003 Chan took his first trip to Hollywood. The result was The Medallion, a pretty mediocre action film starring Jackie Chan in the lead. It marked the start of a pretty rough period for Gordon Chan, with clunkers like A1 Tou Tiao (A-1: Headline) and The King of Fighters further watering down his oeuvre. The only bright spot during this period is Ji Jern Mo Lai (Undercover Hidden Dragon), another collaboration with Dante Lam.
After recovering from The King of Fighters, his worst release to date, Chan moved back to Hong Kong and rebooted his career. Hua Bi (Mural) was a little shaky, but Si Da Ming Bu (The Four) put Chan back on track. The follow-up was as grand as Hong Kong spectacles get and Chan's entry in the Tales from the Dark 2 anthology shows a director who matured enough to create a strong, creditable and stylish horror film.
Gordon Chan isn't the director to create big, sprawling masterpieces, but he released quite a few enjoyable action flicks and comedies throughout the years. The quality varies, but there are only a few films that aren't worth the trouble. If you're looking for a filler director with a vast and amusing oeuvre, Gordon Chan should be high on your list.
Best film: Tales from the Dark 2 (4.0*)
Worst film: The King of Fighters (1.0*)
Reviewed film(s): Tales from the Dark 2
Average rating: 2.70 (out of 5)