Burning Paradise (HK 1993)

Rating: ***
Producer: Tsui Hark
Director: Ringo Lam
Cast: Willie Chi, Carmen Lee, John Ching, Yamson Domingo, Kam Kong Wong, Chun Lam

This loose remake of "Temple Of The Red Lotus" (1965) features a young Fong Sai Yuk (Willie Chi) escaping Shaolin Temple after it was sacked by the Manchus. He befriends a beautiful young woman named Tou-Tou (Carmen Lee), but they both end up getting captured and imprisoned in the deadly Red Lotus Temple, which is ruled by the cruel, evil, and nihilistic Kung (Kam Kong Wong). A Shaolin traitor named Hung Hei Kwan (Yamson Domingo) serves Kung, along with General Crimson (John Ching) and female lieutenant Boroke (Chun Lam). Ultilizing all of his resources and youthful vigor, Sai Yuk must figure out how to escape the temple and rescue his friends.

It's a fantastic looking film that features some excellent fighting and swordplay, which is marred only by occasional drop-frame editing. The cinematography is gorgeous and the "Temple Of Doom" (1984) setting is delightful. Newcomer Willie Chi delivers an excellent performance, but lacks the charisma to carry the film by himself. Carmen Lee is charming as a tragic damsel-in-distress character, and she works well with Chi. The film is vicious and brutal, and its attempts at humor are awkward and unnecessary. Fans of films like "Dragon Inn" (1992), "Iron Monkey" (1993), and "New Legend Of Shaolin" (1994) will likely enjoy it.