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Film / China White

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China White is a 1989 Hong Kong gangster movie starring Russell Wong, Lisa Schrage, Billy Drago and with Hong Kong crime cinema regulars Andy Lau and Alex Man in supporting roles, despite what the poster implies.

Bobby Chow (Wong) is the son of the largest triad in Amsterdam's Chinatown, which is in the middle of a territorial dispute between a local Italian gang for heroin control. Reluctantly becoming the head of the triad, while juggling his relationship with his Caucasian girlfriend Ann (Schrage), Bobby have to end a war between the mob that is growing out of control by taking on local crime boss Scalia (Drago).

It's worth noting that this movie is actually funded by the actual Hong Kong triads; not surprising, since the triads have a massive influence in various industries in East Asia, including cinema. In fact, decades later some not-so-glorious factoids regarding the making of this film would resurface, mostly from its leading Hong Kong stars Andy Lau, Alex Man and Carina Lau.

China White contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Mostly on the romance between Ann and Bobby, including a lengthy scene at a beach and a nighttime boat ride in the Seine.
  • Advertised Extra: Andy Lau and Alex Man, both of them rather big names in Hong Kong cinema the time the movie was made, get top billing. They fail to survive the first act of the movie.
  • Babies Ever After: Only referenced in the ending; after Bobby’s death and Scalia’s assassination, the on-screen text narration said Annie is pregnant with Bobby’s child, and would escape alone to Brazil where she raises Bobby's son as a single parent.
  • Band of Brothels: Much of the triads’ hideout is set next to a whorehouse which is under their protection. When Bobby gets injured by a gunshot wound, he ends up being saved by the prostitutes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Scalia’s syndicate has been wiped out, and every member including Scalia are dead. But Bobby gives up his life for the mission, although his girlfriend Ann would continue Bobby’s family line as she is pregnant with his son.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Chi, a Silver Fox played by former Shaw Brothers action star and stuntman Ku Feng.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Much of the film is set in Europe, and locales such as the Canals of Amsterdam, the Seine, and the Eiffel Tower itself shows up prominently onscreen.
  • Guns Akimbo: Bobby during several shootout scenes, notably the canal and the finale in the docks.
  • Head in a Box: Uncle Ching’s fate, after getting on the wrong side of Scalia and his mooks. His head ends up being delivered back to his subordinates in a wrapped box.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The Amazonian henchwoman’s preferred choice of clothing, which is a tight-fitting leather leotard with knee-high leather boots. In the finale she wears a coat, but as she fights Bobby, her shirt gets ripped open, revealing that she is wearing the leather outfit inside.
  • The Hero Dies: Bobby doesn’t outlive the credits; his killer is none other than Scalia, the Big Bad, who is holding Ann as a hostage.
  • Improvised Zipline: Min, one of the henchmen, tries fleeing from Bobby during the abandoned amusement part shootout using a horizontal wire tethered to a broken-down Ferris wheel. Unfortunately for him, without the proper equipment for a zipline he ends up getting stuck inches away from the wheel, allowing Bobby to shoot him.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played completely straight; during the massacre on Uncle Chi’s house, both of Chi’s grandsons are present, and while the mobsters end up killing each other in a lengthy shootout, both boys caught in the cross-fire actually survives. There is a rather intense scene where Tuko, seeing the boys taking cover in a larder, points his Uzi at them, but before he can pull the trigger, Yin Hung, in his last moments, managed to shoot Tuko In the Back before he succumbs. Both the children don’t appear again for the rest of the film (implied that they’re taken out from Amsterdam and sent back to Hong Kong).
  • It's Personal: Bobby’s vengeance towards Scalia eventually becomes personal when Danny, the younger brother of Bobby, dies as result of Scalia’s operations.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Scalia, the Big Bad, ends up killing Bobby in the final shootout, and is the Sole Survivor of the battle when the police arrive to arrest him. Lacking evidence to acquit him, Scalia is cleared of all charges… only to get shot by Kong, a small-time triad wannabe who is absent in the final action scene. For bonus points, this happens when Scalia is right outside his getaway vehicle.
    Reporter: "Mr. Scalia, now that the trial's over, would you like to tell us how are you feeling?"
    Scalia: "The same way I feel before the trial started. I feel great. See, I was innocent before it started, and I am innocent now. All the court did was, made it official..." ( suddenly shot and Killed Mid-Sentence)
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Inverted with the relationship between Bobby Wong and Anne Michaels.
  • Railing Kill: Happens to plenty of faceless extras in the docks shootout.
  • Redshirt Army: The triads backing up Bobby against Scalia’s mooks in the final shootout. Plenty on both sides die throughout the gun-battle, and none of them survive the climax.
  • Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: For the newly-opened Chinese restaurant established by Bobby, with Ann by his side.
  • Smug Snake: Scalia, throughout the movie. Especially in the ending where after being acquitted for all his crimes due to lack of activity, he then blows a kiss at the vengeful Ann, still mourning over Bobby’s death, deliberately intimidating her since there is nothing she can do to stop him.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Between Bobby, a Chinese triad assassin, and Ann, an Interpol detective investigating the mob. It doesn’t end well, predictably.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Ann discovers she’s pregnant with Bobby’s son, but only after Bobby’s death. She eventually flees all alone to Brazil to raise his son after the end of the film.
  • Taking You with Me: Bobby’s partner, Phong, despite being wounded, managed to take out the lead dealer working for Scalia, by tackling him off a railing into a hatch while having an explosive device strapped to his own belt. The ensuing explosion kills both of them.