The Big Holdup

Year of release: 1975

Genre: crime

Director: Chor Yuen

Writer: Chin Yu

Stars: Chen Kuan-Tai, Ling Yun, Yueh Hua, Ching Li, Tsung Hua, Danny Lee

Not rated; contains II-level violence, language and drug references

RATING: 6 out of 10



The Big Holdup is kind of a case of good news and bad news. The good news is that many of the movie's themes (such as class struggle, corruption, and brotherhood) translate well into today's society. The bad news is that this type of crime picture was already well-worn in the seventies, and it seems even more dated now, especially after entries by directors like John Woo (A Better Tomorrow), Ringo Lam (the "On Fire" films like City on Fire) and especially Johnnie To (A Hero Never Dies).

Though it's by no means a bad film, The Big Holdup still failed to really grip this particular modern-era viewer. Even though it has some decent performances by the actors -- most notably from a young Danny Lee, who portrays in here the almost total opposite of his now well-known "hard-ass cop" -- it just has that kind of "been there, done that" kind of feeling to it. Perhaps I was expecting a different kind of movie; this is definitely not the Peckinpah-esque jaunt the blurbs on the cover made it out to be.

The film does start out with a violent (at least for the time) robbery sequence, but this is much more of a dramatic movie than an action piece. There is nothing wrong with a good crime drama -- just check out a movie like To's The Mission and you'll see a excellent crime picture that doesn't depend on bloodshed to excite the audience. However, like many Hong Kong movies from this period, matters often delve into the overly melodramatic, and this hurts the film as a whole.

It's hard to develop sympathy for characters that seem to be overacting, and for a film that depends on emotion rather than high-powered squibs and dual-pistol action, those kind of matters throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the proceedings. I did enjoy the way flashbacks were smartly used to fill in the backstory of the characters, some of the cinematography and musical score is well done and, as stated before, the actors do a good job given what they had to work with. But there's a reason why films like A Better Tomorrow hit the local box office like an atom bomb -- the crime genre in Hong Kong cinema was frankly pretty stale, and by-the-numbers movies like The Big Holdup do very little to disprove that theory.




VCD Information

Company: Celestial (catalog number 100864)

Format: widescreen

Language: Cantonese or Mandarin

Subtitles: Chinese/English electronically printed on the lower part of the picture

Extras: trailers for "Danger Has Two Faces", "Police Force", "Kidnap" and "The Condemned"

This isn't quite as nice as some of Celestial's other VCDs -- the sound is pretty tinny and has kind of an echo to it -- but for a movie that's over 25 years old, this is a fine presentation that should do for those that cannot play the Region 3 DVD of this film.

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