Hong Kong Cinema

Escape from Hong Kong Island

  • Made: 2004
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 2 PAL
  • Release Date: May 2005
  • Company: Tai Seng UK
  • Length: 92 minutes
  • Picture: Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese (5.1) / Mandarin (2.0) with Subtitles
  • Extras: Interactive menus, original trailers, new release trailers, 'making of' documentary (3 min)
  • Classification: 15


Simon Loui


Jordan Chan, Chapman To, CoCo Chiang Yi, Law Kar-Ying, Paul Wong, Barbara Wong, Cheung Tat-Ming, Steve Wong, Yip Sai-Wing

Escape from Hong Kong Island (2004) brings together the likeable duo of Jordan Chan and Simon Loui in this stylish but quirky comedy. The major difference between this and their previous works (Cheaters, Sleeping with the Dead, The Wall) is that this time Simon is behind the camera for his directorial debut. For many years Simon has been at the forefront of Hong Kong horror (especially Troublesome Night series), both as an actor and writer but Escape from Hong Kong Island is a massive and brave departure for a first crack at directing. The presence of hardman Jordan Chan will have been reassuring, as will plenty of other familiar faces that feature in this modest production.


The structure to this movie is very simple. Jordan Chan plays Raymond Mak, a callous and despicable city trader. One day Raymond loses his job and then soon after leaving the building gets mugged! This all sets the tone for a quest to a get across Victoria Harbour and into Kowloon by 5pm in order to sign up for a new job (working for Bey Logan!). However, Raymond soon realises that crossing the harbour is not going to be so easy when you have no colleagues, family or friends to turn to.

As the quest begins we start to learn more about Raymond's past, how he is a bullying loner who treats everyone with contempt and disrespect. We learn that whilst dating Candy (Coco Chiang) he slept with her best friend in the restaurant toilets! He has packed his mum into a retirement home and completely neglects his siblings (Barbara Wong and Cheung Tat-Ming). Not only is Raymond struggling to escape his past, but he is also struggling to escape a police officer (Chapman To) who seems to have a crystal ball on Raymond's activities. As the film unfolds there are two threads to keep the viewer occupied: Will Raymond get across Victoria Harbour in time? And will Raymond confront his dreadful behaviour?


There are several key themes that drive Escape from Hong Kong Island forward. The most obvious being the idea of travelling against the clock. This generates a sequence of scenes to laugh at Raymond's expense; events included are at the Police Station, Immigration, personal bank, restaurant, his old job, the sperm bank and trying to dodge a bus fare. Viewers will be able to relate to similar Western fare including John Cleese's Clockwise and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Then there is the redemptive theme. This cruel turn of events makes Raymond confront who he really is. There are undertones of Ebenezer Scrooge in Christmas Carol, with Chapman To's cop being the ghosts of Christmas! If I have one issue here, it is because Jordan Chan's on-screen personas always have some element of warmth and likeability. No matter how much the plot suggests that Raymond is a complete bastard, it is hard to equate this to 'Chicken' ( Jordan 's loveable rogue in Young and Dangerous series)!

Simon Loui's direction provides a fresh and original edge to what could have been a predictable and tiresome yarn. If I was to suggest a style it would be somewhere between Guy Ritchie and Steve Soderburgh. Escape from Hong Kong Island features animated sequences, split scenes, snappy editing and a host of stylish and occasionally trippy sequences along with the off-beat soundtrack.


The presentation of this disc is a step beyond Tai Seng's previous UK releases with uber-cool disc menu and graphics. This is supported by a clean and crisp widescreen print, Cantonese (5.1 & 2.0) / Mandarin (2.0) audio tracks with removable Cantonese and English subtitles. The extras are limited, featuring scene selection, a series of upcoming trailers, the original trailer for Escape from Hong Kong Island and a 3 minute 'Making of' documentary.


Released at the same time as Jackie Chan's New Police Story, this film was never destined for box-office dominance or international renown, but it does allow Jordan and Simon to flex their creative muscles in roles far beyond their conventional output. Without the strength of Jordan 's performance or Simon Loui's flair behind the camera this would have been a forgettable romp around Hong Kong . Jordan and the support cast ensure that there is substance to match Simon's style, which is supported by a professional if unexceptional DVD presentation from Tai Seng.