Year of release: 2005

Genre: documentary

Director: Robin Shou

Action directors: Ridley Tsui, Tony Leung Siu-Hung, Jack Wong, Andy Cheng

Writer: Robin Shou

Cinematography: Christopher Faloona

Editor: Kirk Jenkins

Music: Nathan Wang, Ezra Gould

Stars: Robin Shou, Beatrice Chia, Hakim Alston, Keith Hirabayashi, Craig Reid, Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-Leung, Jude Poyer

Not rated; contains IIA-level violence

DVD Information

Company: Tai Seng

Format: widescreen

Languages: English/Cantonese, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish

Subtitles: English, Chinese

Extras: commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, picture gallery, trailers, 30-page hard-cover picture book

Notes: A great 2-disc set from Tai Seng. Stuff like this really makes me question why they keep putting out fairly crappy bare-bones DVDs with barely readable subtitles for most of their releases.

Related links:

Sammo Hung biography
Movie Review index
Main Page

Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen

Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen

There have been a few documentaries about Hong Kong action cinema, but Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen is the first one to really get it done right. This is probably due to the fact that unlike the other entries that were created by Western fans/scholars of Hong Kong movies, Red Trousers was put together by Robin Shou. Shou is best known for appearing in the movies based off of the popular video game Mortal Kombat, but before that, he appeared in a couple of dozen Hong Kong productions. He was often a bit player, but that is kind of the point of Red Trousers -- it's the "little guys" who will probably never be known on a first-name basis like Jackie or Jet, but still goes out and busts his ass (sometimes literally) for very little pay and an even smaller bit of glory that made the Hong Kong film industry the powerhouse it was during its' "golden age".

Red Trousers takes a unique approach to the martial arts documentary, which is just usually a bunch of "talking heads" interspersed with clips from various movies. Shou directed a short film called Lost Time, and then based the documentary off of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage he did on the set, along with interviews with stars like Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Leung, as well as a look into how Chinese opera schools are training the new class of stuntpeople. While this might sound like nothing more than a glorified DVD featurette, a lot of what is presented here is surprisingly informantive and even poignant at times.

Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen

One particular sequence follows a stuntman who came to work in Hong Kong from the Mainland. He's happy to earn $25 a day, even after a botched wire stunt breaks his leg. In a day and age where actors earning millions of dollars per picture are applauded for spending a couple of months doing kung fu training and doing falls from ten feet in the air, these kinds of sequences remind the Hong Kong action movie fan of exactly why they got into the movies in the first place. These guys will lay it all on the line, not to give their egos a boost (though that certainly is a factor -- no one in their right mind would do this kind of work unless they got at least a little bit of joy from it) but to excite the audience. It's the sort of attitude which produced films which captivated audiences from all over the world a decade ago, and something that needs to be re-captured to bring them in again.

If Red Trousers teaches us anything, we as viewers need to respect this dedication, and we should demand it in action movies. No matter how advanced computer effects become, they can never truly replace the talent and chutzpah of a trained stuntman. I, for one, applaud Shou's effort here, and I hope other viewers feel the same way. If you're a Hong Kong action fan, you owe it to yourself to check out this movie -- you will not be disappointed.

Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen