Burning Paradise (1996)
By: Michael Helms on July 28, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Hard Corps (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Chinese DD 2.0, English Subtitles. 104 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ringo Lam
Starring: Willie Chi, Carmen Lee
Screenplay: Nam Yin & Wong Wan Choi
Music: Mak Chun Hung
Country: Hong Kong
AKA: Once Upon A Time In China 6
So, you know your kung fu monk movies? To the surprise of some, urban action director Ringo Lam strayed out of the city and back in time with this head-kicking hero, period, fist fest. The traditional Chinese character of Fong Sai Yuk has been immortalised in celluloid a record number of times but Burning Paradise goes straight to the top of the pile, literally kicking the action bar impossibly upwards and maybe out of reach in this punchy pleasure item.

The persecution of monks is the entry point for a pre-emptive strike by the evil Manchu government of the Ching Dynasty, who want to tame the pesky Shaolin before there's an uprising. A rider is split in half with surgical precision as his horse gallops by, carrying legs without a trunk that seems to be wildly haemorrhaging from the cross-section that remains. Fong Sai Yuk's own steed is beheaded while he's on it. Dropping a hero roll over the decapitated body he's soon escaping with his Uncle to team up with a feisty ex-hooker. Then it's down to the bowels of the subterranean prison and tombs beneath the Red Lotus Temple. But there's some more arterial spray and bodies hanging by the roadside before going entirely underground.

Downstairs is where the action is as Fong and cohorts attempt escape from a dark, dank, over-populated prison cell decorated in human skulls. Spiky and painful moments ensue in confrontation with a sassy prison officer. Fun with fire, further impalements and beheadings, a corpse pit, corpses being eaten by rats, caverns of corpses who look like they could come to life at any moment, explosions, the obligatory fart joke and a, "don't squeeze my dick", joke and a little romance, and you have mass entertainment on a grand scale with Burning Paradise as it gathers pace towards the finale pitting Fong Sai Yuk against the evil Lord Kung.
For a film mainly set in a cave Burning Paradise is as visually stunning as it is visceral. The claustrophobic quarters seem to make all the stunt work more dangerous as our main characters line up at one stage and proceed to have a contest over who can be the first to break their back.
The excellent and sometimes ghostly score flits in and out effortlessly creating some sensationally spooky soundscapes. You won't blow up your sound system but sound effects like fists aren't the only thing punching in Burning Paradise.
Extra Features
The Verdict
A great film that should be eagerly consumed by all-comers. Breaks stride in the final reel but still contains enough outrageous physical action scenes to nail you and your jaw to the floor. Even the plain digi-pack in a slipcase and general vanilla release of Burning Paradise can't detract from the fact that it can stand alone as one of the few classic examples of 90s Chinese cinema.
Movie Score
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