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Film / Burning Ambition

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Burning Ambition is a 1989 Hong Kong gangster film starring Austin Wai, Kara Wai, Simon Yam and Yukari Oshima. Directed by Frankie Chan, the movie feels a lot like a remake of Kinji Fukasaku's The Shogun’s Samurai (1978), but set in late 80s Hong Kong, detailing the stories of power struggles between siblings in a crime family, double-crossings orchestrated by rival triad bosses, and parental favoritism leading to internal struggle with fatal results.

The siblings Siew-Tao (Yukari Oshima), Siu-Hong (Kara Wa), Wai (Kiu Wai Miu) and Chi-Shao (Frankie Chan) have been living under the shadow of their father, Boss Chau, who single-handedly brought up the four of them after their mother's death. But when power struggle threatens the safety of their father, and themselves, the siblings' loyalties will be put to the test.

Burning Ambition provides the following tropes:

  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The attempt on Boss Chau’s life happens right in the middle of Siu-Hong’s birthday, which she is celebrating with her father, older sister and younger brother in a Japanese restaurant when assassins suddenly attack them. For bonus points, poor Siu-Hong dies barely an hour after blowing the candles.
  • Action Girl: The sisters, Siu-Hong and Siu-Tao.
  • Agony of the Feet: In the carpark battle, Siu-Hong (who, like her father and sister Siu-Tao, is fighting baddies while wearing only their socks, due to having their shoes removed while eating in a Japanese restaurant) cuts her feet badly when jumping off the hood of a parked car only to land on some glass. Naturally, the mooks surrounding them decide to exploit the situation by ripping out windshields from various vehicles and smashing them all over the place.
  • All Part of the Show: The fight in the amusement park leads to Chi-Shao and a group of mooks interrupting a stageshow, where they proceed to fight each other with weapons retrieved from a nearby exhibition booth. The audience below promptly claps thinking their fight is part of a performance.
  • Anyone Can Die: Case in point, the movie revolves around the relationship of four siblings, Siew-Tao, Siu-Hong, Wai and Chi-Shao growing up in the same triad family. By the end of the first act, Siu-Hong and Wai are dead. The movie ends bleakly, with Tao dying before the final act, and Chi-Shao revealed to have died after his final confrontation with his old man. Cue credits.
  • Attack Hello: Siu-Tao and Chi-Shao, meeting each other for the first time, begins their bonding by sparring on the hood of a parked vehicle.
  • Badass Biker: Chi-Shao’s team of badass Fire-Forged Friends, a biker gang whom he joined as a youth when running gangster activities in Europe. The gang returns to Hong Kong when he needs their assistance.
  • Badass Family: The entire Chau sibling team, all of them whom are raised in a triad and are trained to be fighters who can take on dozens of mooks in fight scenes.
  • Died on Their Birthday: Siu-Hong dies on her birthday (Along with her brother, Chi-Wai) when their family is attacked by enemy Mooks at the family party for the occasion.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Chi-Shao’s team of biker allies went through thick and thin together with him for most of the movie, until halfway through, Chi-Shao discovered his own father, Boss Chau, have ordered for them to be assassinated by poison. By the time Chi-Shao sees them again, they are piles of corpses being loaded into bodybags.
  • Fatal Family Photo: The photo of Boss Chau and his offspring, the Chau siblings, all whom are adults, are prominently displayed in the hall of his Big Fancy House. The four siblings all dies by the end of the film, while Boss Chau becomes insane.
  • Foreign Remake: Of Kinji Fukasaku’s Shogun's Samurai.
  • Gangland Drive-By:
    • Tat-wah’s father, a triad boss, gets offed in the opening scene using this method.
    • At the end of the third act, another attempt on Boss Chau’s life have a car full of gangsters pull up and shoot at him. Siu-Tao, his only other daughter, pushes him out of the way, effectively doing a Heroic Sacrifice being gunned down in her father’s place.
  • Leg Focus: Invoked in the carpark fight after the Chau sisters, Siu-Tao and Siu-Hong, flees with their father from assassins in the Japanese restaurant. They removed their shoes, as per the tradition of Japanese shops, and left their shoes behind while fleeing, so the two sisters (being played by the gorgeous Yukari Oshima and Kara Hui) have to fight off mooks while wearing their socks and in short skirts.
  • Machete Mayhem: During the fight in the Japanese restaurant, the henchmen after Boss Chau’s life comes equipped with machetes.
  • Parents in Distress: Boss Chau in the restaurant fight scene, where his younger son, Wai and both his daughters, Siu-Tao and Siu-Hong have to fend off mooks coming after him. his son and younger daughter didn’t make it.
  • Railing Kill: Siu-Hong’s fate, falling from the balcony of a rooftop carpark.
  • Stock Wushu Weapons: There's a fight scene in a carnival that spills into a tent displaying "Antique Chinese Weapons", where the hero and two Elite Mooks ends up grabbing weapons which are on display (due to No OSHA Compliance, none of the weapons are bolted down) and grabs practically everything they lay their hands on to assault each other, including the dao, gun, qiang, halberds, and practically most of everything else.
  • Together in Death: By the end of the movie, Chi-Shao, the eldest brother of the Chau family, succumbs of his injuries, where he can be with his brother and both his sisters.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Yukari Oshima’s Siu-Tao is the tomboy, to Kara Hui’s more ladylike Siu-Hong.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Partway through the story, Boss Chau narrates to his older son, Chi-Shao, about their past, where audiences get a flashback of Chau’s past; Chau, then a small-time triad leader, had to flee with his four children (Chi-Shao, Wai, Siu-Tao and Siu-Hong, still kids at that point) and his pregnant wife when enemy mooks are after his life. His wife, being pregnant and unable to run, decide to stay behind, telling him to flee with his four children and look after them when she’s gone. Cue Madam Chau getting hacked to death by mobsters who had no qualms attacking a pregnant woman.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Subverted, Siu-Hong, the more feminine of the two sisters, dies by the end of the first act. But then again, Siu-Tao doesn’t survive past the credits either.
  • Wall of Weapons: During the big fight scene in an amusement park, Chi-Shao and a kung-fu trained Elite Mook ends up crashing into a tent which is labelled as "Authentic Chinese Weaponry Exhibition", complete with spears, a three-sectioned staff, rope darts, flails, several jian and other weapons being displayed in public without any security measures or safeguards preventing them from being removed. Cue Chi-Shao and the mook grabbing nearby weapons and fighting each other, causing visitors in the exhibition to flee in terror.