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Festival Hong Kong an Ongoing Delight

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The second annual Festival Hong Kong continues at the Monica 4-Plex with Johnny To’s “The Heroic Trio” (Tuesday at 5:15 and 9:30 p.m.; Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.), the kind of martial arts fantasy only the Hong Kong film industry could pull off.

Made with terrific verve and imagination, it stars three of Hong Kong’s most gorgeous and accomplished actresses--Anita Mui as the black-caped, metal-masked Wonder Woman (a big boon to her policeman husband, who doesn’t know his wife’s secret identity); Maggie Cheung as a sexy motorcycle-riding do-gooder; and Michelle Khan, who’s in the thrall of an androgynous monster of supernatural powers who wants to revive the monarchy in China as some kind of crazed way of eventually controlling the entire world.

It’s just too fast and too much fun to care about how silly it is. However, its comic book violence is strong enough to rule it out for small children.

Peter Chan and Lee Chi’s “Tom, Dick and Hairy” (Tuesday at 7:15; Wednesday at 5:15 and 9:30 p.m.) is a lively contemporary comedy starring both Tony Leungs and Lawrence Cheng as a trio of Hong Kong singles who share a funky apartment--it’s “Three Men and a Baby” sans the infant. One Tony Leung plays Tom, a nice-looking, level-headed banker, and the taller, more exotic-looking Tony Leung (co-star of “The Lover”) is a sexy romantic, and Cheng is the boyish Hairy, so nicknamed for his mop-top.

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Tsui Hark’s extravagant romantic melodrama/shoot ‘em up “Love and Death in Saigon: A Better Tomorrow III” (Thursday at 4:30 and 9:30 p.m.; Friday at 7:15 p.m.) is only loosely a sequel. It simply means that the charismatic Chow Yun-Fat, who played an ex-con trying to go straight the first time around, is now trying to get his shopkeeper uncle and cousin (Tony Leung, the taller) out of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War and becomes involved with a beautiful, enigmatic woman (Anita Mui), a formidable sharpshooter with underworld connections who’s at once courageous and vulnerable.

“Robotrix” (Thursday at 7; Friday at 5 and 9:45 p.m.) is Hong Kong’s sexy, kinky answer to “RoboCop,” in which a gaggle of glamorous robots join forces with a cop (David Ng) in capturing a male robot who’s zeroing in on prostitutes. Directed by Jamie Luk Kam-Ming and starring Amy Yip.

Yuen Woo-Ping’s knockabout 1978 kung fu comedy “Drunken Master” (Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.) has been credited as the film that made Jackie Chan the ingratiating martial arts superstar he remains 15 years later. As rambling as a Keystone Kops comedy (which it resembles in many ways), it’s slapstick to the max, and thus likely to be a bit tedious except to dedicated martial arts fans.

Richard Lee’s terrific “Once a Cop” (Saturday and Sunday at 5 and 10 p.m.) is an example of the Hong Kong action-thriller at its smart, fast-moving best. Elegant Michelle Khan stars as a crackerjack Mainland China cop, not an ideologue yet fulfilled in her demanding but low-paying job. Her lover (Yu Rong-Guang), however, a disillusioned veteran of the Vietnam War, is not similarly content and heads to Hong Kong to join forces with an old war buddy to get rich quick, which eventually means trying to knock over the Hong Kong Central Bank.

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Meanwhile, Khan has been dispatched to Hong Kong to try to track that buddy, who has been involved in criminal activities across the China-Hong Kong border; naturally, she does not know that her erstwhile lover has become his partner. The action is never less than bravura and suspenseful, and the conflicting emotions experienced by Khan and Yu, who has the rugged, virile star presence of the young Toshiro Mifune, give the film substance and dimension.

Information: (310) 394-9741.


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