Hong Kong Cinema

Peace Hotel

  • Made: 1995
  • Box Office: HK $24.8m (# 7)
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: PAL Reg 2
  • Release Date: June 26 2006
  • Company: Optimum Asia
  • Length: 87 mins
  • Picture: 16:9 Widescreen anamorphic
  • Sound: DD2.0
  • Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
  • Extras: None
  • Classification: 15


Wai Ka Fai


Chow Yun Fat, Cecilia Yip, Chin Ho, Lau Shun, Annabelle Liew, Hedy Chang, Mickey Ng

Peace Hotel - Credited as Chow Yun Fat's last film before the move to Hollywood, said move doesn't seem to be such a bad idea. With the grand old days of heroic bloodshed behind him, Mr. Fat set off to Lala land to try something different, if not entirely new, resulting in the Replacement Killers and the Corruptor which was actually half decent, containing one of the more memorable car chases I've yet seen. Whilst these and his King & I remake, Anna and the King, don't rate among his best films, they do at least fare better than this throwaway John Woo production.


Chow Yun Fat plays The Killer (again!), a man infamous for slaughtering an entire gang of bandits after they did something that, with hindsight, was a tad unwise. I said entire but that's not strictly true, as just before he despatched the last bandit The Killer was distracted by some doves - yes, some doves - and he showed mercy, allowing the last bandit to flee before setting up the Peace Hotel on the site. Now a man of peace, he set his sword at the boundary of the hotel and for ten years has sworn to protect anyone seeking refuge with him, forbidding any pursuers to pass his sword, and for ten years his fearsome reputation seems to have worked.

The arrival of an impulsive woman with a gang hot on her heels brings trouble for The Killer and his motley guests as she tests his resolve to stick to his word. Will he still protect someone who risks the lives of everyone at the Peace Hotel?


With its odd Western theme, Peace Hotel is trying to offer something different from the usual fare, but at heart it comes down to a tale of trust and betrayal. When Cecilia Yip arrives at the hotel she stirs up trouble, convincing everyone that she's the boss's long-lost wife until the Killer lets her know he's actually the boss. Yip is very good as Shua but as the character calls for her to be intensely annoying at times, this doesn't mean such good news for the audience. Still, she pulls it off for the rest of the picture too as the constantly deceitful Shua and the honour-bound Killer test each others boundaries and (of course) fall for each other.

These make for the best scenes in the film as their intense relationship unfolds, but unfortunately rather than sticking to the melodrama they had to include the obligatory action scenes, which, in this case, let the film down. Fight scenes with fists and swords are so jittery and quickly cut that it becomes a mess, with no real clarity of action, leaving a sequence where The Killer uses a machine gun to less than exciting effect and a final showdown that would suit the action mid-way through most fight-centred pictures.

A further drawback is the lack of conviction familiar to some Hong Kong films in being unable to choose between a humourous or more serious air. In Project A, for example, the light-hearted slapstick is gradually overwhelmed by the events of the film culminating in desperate fights to the death at the finale, in such a way that the transition between moods makes perfect sense. In Peace Hotel, it feels as if the comedic moments are out of step with the rest of the film rather than offering respite or relief from the intensity.

The plot, too, is a little confused, with a character's motives or actions sometimes inexplicable where it would have been fitting, not to mention easier to stick with cliché. It is possible that these could be explained by the apparent existence of a longer cut of the film. The film looks pretty good, with the sets and the Western theme fleshed out with all the dust, horses and brown clothing you could wish for, and the occasional interesting camera positions help add a bit of interest to the visual aspect. In the end, it feels as if they could have done away with most of the action outside the hotel and concentrated on Fat and Yip's fine performances, but then there would be no conflict without the exterior threat so there you go.

Wai Ka Fai's first film as director, he has improved over time as you can see for yourself in Full Time Killer, also out on DVD in the UK. The trumpeting of a certain John Woo on the cover is what it looks like, an attempt at name-trading, and if it weren't for the aforementioned doves and a Hard Boiled-a-like scene of Chow Yun Fat sliding down a ladder, blazing away, you'd be forgiven for assuming that Woo had no involvement.


Including a grand total of literally no extras beyond scene selections, this is a sparse offering indeed. The stereo soundtrack does the job, but the picture quality is sometimes let down in darker scenes by some artefacting.


With gems such as Hard Boiled and Full Contact made only a few years earlier, this is one for completists as even the oft-panned Replacement Killers is more satisfying. Still, it's not a bad film and there's enjoyment to be had in the exchanges between Chow Yun Fat and Cecilia Yip, but don't be fooled by the John Woo involvement and Chow's "Man With No Name" act on the cover: this is not the action-western you are looking for.