Hong Kong Cinema

Red Trousers - The Life of Hong Kong Stuntmen

  • Made: 2003
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 2 PAL
  • Release Date: 22nd Aug 2005
  • Company: Tai Seng UK
  • Length: 110 minutes
  • Picture: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Sound: DD5.1 English / Cantonese
  • Language: English Subtitles
  • Extras: Audio Commentary, Extended Interviews, Deleted Footage, Behind the Scenes, Trailers, Photos
  • Classification: 15


Robin Shou


Robin Shou, Beatrice Chia, Lau Kar Leung, Sammo Hung, Keith Hirabayashi, Hakim Alston, Craig D. Reid, Mindy Dhanjal

Robin Shou is an enigmatic figure within the action / martial arts movie genre. Having started as a Hong Kong stuntman in the late eighties, he went into bit part acting for several years before moving back to California. His big break in Hollywood came with the Mortal Kombat series of the mid-nineties, playing the character Liu Kang. After several quiet years, Robin Shou returned in 'Red Trousers - Life of the Hong Kong stuntmen' as both director and lead actor. After featuring at several film festivals across the world (Hawaii, Newport Beach) and a limited theatrical release, Tai Seng is giving Red Trousers a two-disc DVD release in the UK.


Red Trousers has an innovative format, with a fragmented documentary style structure. The main component is a film within a film called Lost Time. This mini-film was specifically shot to show the viewer how stunts are contrived behind the scenes and then linked together to make a coherent action sequence. Between the Lost Time sequences there are a number of interviews and documentary shorts to provide a fuller picture of the industry behind the Hong Kong stunt scene. Expert insight and credibility is provided from film legends Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Leung who provide real-life accounts on the rigours of martial arts training.

The storyline for Lost Time is largely irrelevant, it merely serves as a vehicle to show how action scenes and stunts are constructed. The dialogue and acting could be ripped to shreds, but if you are watching this for an engaging narrative structure, then I suggest you got the wrong movie! The main themes are borrowed from titles such as Blade, Star Wars, The Matrix and Highlander, but as I mentioned there is no real drive for being remarkably inventive. The impact of this film lies through its desire to take the viewer behind the camera and strip down the action sequences, much like a magician going on to reveal their tricks.


The actual stuntwork in Red Trousers will never match the explosive work that came from the golden days of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and co in the eighties. Rather than attempt to focus on one particular style, Robin rightly blends a mixture of fighting styles and stunt sequences into Lost Time. The fights include hand-to-hand combat, high kicking and weapons work. Much of the action is from the Yuen Woo Ping school of action, and many of the stunts rely on candy glass, wire assisted falling and powder enhanced kicks.

The engaging moments are actually behind the scenes listening to the stuntmen talk about the stunt industry, which does a lot to take the glamour away from their livelihood. Even more interesting is the footage between action choreographer Ridley Tsui and his stuntmen. There are no supportive discussions behind the scenes, but rather Ridley informs his stuntmen to repeat stunts after removing all of the mats that were covering the concrete floor. By the end there is a distinct sense that the stuntmen are in a terribly paid and low prospect profession, but at the same time Robin seems to be suggesting that these guys should be proud to be in such an honourable profession.


The Tai Seng UK release is another impressive offer featuring a second disc packed full of extras. The stylish box set includes a collector's photo book that also featured on the US release. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen format with DD5.1 audio in English, plus a Cantonese audio track with removable English subtitles. The first disc also features an audio commentary from Robin Shou, Keith Hirabayahi and Dr Craig D. Reid. The extras disc includes the complete interviews from Lau Kar Leung and Sammo Hung, plus additional scenes from the Hope Arts School, behind the scenes footage from Lost Time and the standard set of trailers and photos. This is a very strong package from Tai Seng.


Red Trousers is entertaining material, but falls short of being the ultimate insight into the famous Hong Kong stunt industry. The interviews are interesting, but do not reveal a great deal more to those already acquainted with the HK film industry. The film suffers from a fragmented feel and there is a great deal of repetition of stunt footage, which can come across as lazy. However, this film should not be viewed under conventional standards as it is not a conventional film. It is a fresh and entertaining take on Hong Kong action. Some of it is delivered excellently and some is excellent by accident, but the overall effect is hugely entertaining for newcomers and established fans wanting to delve that bit deeper into the life of Hong Kong stuntmen.