Best Tony Leung Movies to Watch After Shang-Chi - VRGyani News and Media

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Best Tony Leung Movies to Watch After Shang-Chi

Who knew the easiest way to solve the MCU's problem with uninteresting villains was to just cast one of the most magnetic performers of the last 30 years? In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Xu Wenwu immediately enters the pantheon of great comic book movie antagonists thanks to the inimitable talents of Tony Leung, who brings a potent blend of quiet vulnerability and simmering intensity to the superhero Kung-fu film. Despite an acclaimed career stretching back to the late-80s, the sheer scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the range of its target demographic does mean that, as astounding as it may seem, Shang-Chi will be the first time some people experience Tony Leung. But instead of Shaming The Youths, we like to see it as a learning opportunity. A gentle push, without judgment, into an astonishing filmography: If Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film you've seen Tony Leung in, and you're very understandably feeling a certain type of way about it, watch these films next.

Keep in mind, these 5 examples are the tip of the iceberg, but they do cover a wide range of the man's many talents, from mind-blowing Wuxia action hero to achingly intimate romantic lead.

RELATED: How 'Shang-Chi' Creates the MCU's First Actual Action Star

Hard Boiled

After a long stint on TV and garnering acclaim for the 1989 historical drama A City of Sadness, Leung exploded thanks to Hard Boiled. In all fairness, there are very few things that do not explode in Hard Boiled, director John Woo's farewell to the Hong Kong film industry and arguably his gun-fu masterpiece. Chow Yun-fat—completing his "I Am the Coolest Motherf*cker Alive" trilogy after A Better Tomorrow and The Killer—stars as "Tequila" Yuen, a tenacious gun-slinging cop hell-bent on taking down the weapon-running operation led by Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong). The case brings Tequila up against Alan (Leung), an undercover officer so embedded in the Triads he can barely remember who he is anymore. The action in Hard Boiled is, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely balls-out insane, but nobody choreographs mayhem like Woo. There's never a single wasted squib, bullet casing, or sugar glass pane, not even during the 40 straight minutes of gunfire that ends the film. Woo creates symphonies. But Hard Boiled also doesn't get enough credit as an amazing example of the at-odds buddy cop genre. Once they start working together, Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung have incredible chemistry as two guys who kind of hate each other working in perfect tandem during a crisis, and it provides a gigantic heart at the center of all that bloodshed.

In The Mood For Love

Good lord, the pining that happens in this film. The intensity of the pining alone could power a city grid for several months. The most recognized of Leung's seven films with director Wong Kar-wai, In the Mood for Love is an aching romance told almost entirely through body language and things left unsaid. Journalist Chow Mo-wan (Leung) and secretary Su Li-shen (Maggie Cheung) move into the same apartment building and quickly discover their spouses are having an affair with each other. As they bond over the shared betrayal, Chow and Su realize they, too, are falling for each other, but the fresh scars of their spouses' unfaithfulness keep them from acting on it. Director Wong captures this unrequited love in masterful frame after frame, accentuating the two brilliant, near-silent lead performances in a way that feels like screaming. You could watch this thing on mute and still know these two people yearn for each other. It's just such a gorgeous movie on every level—costume designer William Chang's parade of jaw-dropping outfits for Cheung is enough to knock you on the floor—that earned Leung an exceedingly well-deserved Best Actor at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

Hero

Hero is, for all intents and purposes, a Jet Li film, and he really is quite good as the nameless lead character of director Zhang Yimou's historical action epic. But Hero is also proof that you simply cannot put Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in a tragic romance plot and expect audiences to focus on anything else. The film takes its storytelling cues from Akira Kurosawa's classic Rashomon, offering up an unreliable, constantly-changing account of how Li's unnamed protagonist bested the three deadliest assassins in 227 BC China—first, Long Sky (Donnie Yen), then lovers Broken Sword (Leung) and Falling Snow (Cheung)—in his quest to get an audience with the King of Qin (Chen Daoming). Hero is quite simply one of the most beautiful-looking action movies ever made, each segment of the film taking on a unique color palette that overwhelms everything from costuming to set design. The scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in which Leung's Wenwu first meets Ying Li (Fala Chen) at the entrance to Ta Lo owes a whole lot to Hero, especially in its blend of color and in the way the central "fight" actually feels like the most graceful, sensual dance you've ever seen. That's Hero beginning to end.

Lust, Caution

Okay, maybe if you are an actual child who first saw Tony Leung in Shang-Chi, maybe don't jump right into the extremely NC-17 Lust, Caution. All I know is that many, many people who experienced the power of this man's rolled-up dress shirt sleeves in Shang-Chi would be interested to know he starred in this erotic espionage thriller from director Ang Lee, one that went on to win the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. Divided into two parts, 1938 Hong Kong and 1942 Shanghai, Lee's film follows a University of Hong Kong student, Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) who becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate Mr. Yee (Leung), a special agent in the Japanese occupying forces in China. As the years pass, the deception turns far more personal and far more charged, the lines between lies, love, and attraction blur into each other. Lust, Caution is a graphic, occasionally uncomfortable movie, but it's never gratuitous. Lee is just telling an exceedingly complex story about human connection, physical or otherwise, bolstered by two astonishing lead performances.

The Grandmaster

The most recent collaboration between Leung and Wong Kar-wai sees the duo taking on the early life of Ip Man, the legendary Wing Chun master who pioneered a form of Kung fu and inspired generations of students, including Bruce Lee. While Donnie Yen's take on Ip Man across four films is probably more recognizable, The Grandmaster is a far more tragic, meditative affair, digging far deeper into the great misfortune's of the man's life; his family's descent into homelessness and starvation during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the border-closing between Hong Kong and Northern China that separated him from his wife (Song Hye-kyo) forever, the unrequited love with one of the only people to ever beat him in a duel, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi). (If you couldn't tell, Tony Leung kind of cornered the market on tragic unrequited love and we thank him for it.) Leung's lead performance showcases his talent for intense stillness, a quietness worth a thousand words, often telling Ip Man's entire story behind his eyes. It's that same quietness that makes the downright explosive bouts of action peppered throughout the film hit all that harder. Wong Kar-wai gets to focus his eye for a unique frame on the action choreography of Woo-Ping Yuen, an innovator of wire-fu whose work was not only integral to the early careers of Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, and Michelle Yeoh, but who also brought the style to American audiences with The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Kill Bill. Considering the massive talent involved doesn't make it any less frustrating that The Grandmaster is the only Wong Kar-wai film to be recognized by the Oscars, but hot damn did it deserve those Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design nods.

KEEP READING: Kung Fu and Wuxia Movies to Watch if You Love 'Shang-Chi'



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