Top 5 Category III Films
You want some real transgression? Then take a ride through 90s Hong Kong cinema, where the Category III movie reigned supreme in terms of local box office success and envelope pushing material. Otherwise known as Cat III, each movie was rated by the government’s film ratings board and given a rating of Category I-III, the third being given to those containing the most “unwholesomeness”. Eventually, many movies embraced the rating as a marketing gimmick. We’re talking subject matter with with serious taboos, covering sex, violence and all around nastiness. “OK, but why should I watch these films?” you may ask. Well, for one while they do contain a lot of vile stories, but also a level of technical craftsmanship usually unheard of for genre pictures. Plus, it’s always interesting to step outside your comfort zone to visit a culture and society different from your own, to experience something way out there and be challenged from an objective perspective. Was that last sentence too pretentious and an attempt at rationalization for watching grotesque things? I leave it up to you. Regardless, without further ado, here’s my top 5 Cat III movies.
5. The Untold Story (1993)
Anthony Wong won’t be winning employee of the year anytime soon in this movie, but he did win a well deserved Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor. For comparison, that would be like Robert Englund getting an Oscar for portraying Freddie Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Think about that. Basically, a maniac owns a restaurant in Macau and the bulk of the movie revolves around how he came to be the proprietor. (FYI, it wasn’t through working hard and honestly.) If it wasn’t for the bumbling cops lead by action star Danny Lee, he would’ve been caught sooner. Horrific gore, brutal violence, a seriously dark revelation at the end and above all Wong’s performance makes this a Cat III classic. And whatever you do, don’t try out his delicious meat dumplings.
4. The Eternal Evil of Asia (1995)
Yeah, that man in the picture above has turned into an actual dickhead, so let’s get that out of the way. It should also give you a sense of this film’s tone, ranging from horror to kung fu to slapstick comedy, which is pretty typical for many Hong Kong movies, actually. Story wise, a group of sexed up friends visit Thailand and royally piss off a practicing wizard there, who follows them back to Hong Kong for a little revenge. One key scene has a magical fight involving placenta(?!) that has to be seen to be appreciated, then seen again. For a crazy old time with some inventive camera work, check this one out.
3. Naked Killer (1992)
If you see a very pretty lady, she’s a probably a lethal super assassin who wouldn’t think twice about wasting you. That’s the most important message I got out of Naked Killer. Kitty is one such pretty young lady who gets taken under the wing of Sister Cindy, a master hitwoman who views her as a natural successor. But, Sister Cindy had another protege, Baby, who’s since turned on her teacher with a vengeance. Simon Yam, a notable Category III veteran actor, plays a detective with personal demons that induce regurgitation whenever a firearm is handled. That’s all you really need to know regarding the plot. Aside from that, the movie mixes in a lavish house which is a production designer’s wet dream, kinetic martial art fighting and balletic gunplay completely unique to Hong Kong.
2. The Story of Ricky (1991)
Sometimes, I wish I were Ricky. He’s a total badass, “born with the strength of 20 men” as the trailer says. It’s 2001 and our protagonist is incarcerated in a corrupt, privatised prison. See, Ricky is on a quest to avenge the death of his beloved, which involves the prison’s big wigs. A quest that will have him punch through stomachs, get strangled by another man’s own entrails and eventually take on the warden who’s no lightweight, per say. What keeps Ricky riveting is the extent of its cartoonish violence. The entire viewing time you’re either thinking or saying out loud “Did they really just do that?!” and waiting to see what kind of over the top mayhem will come next. About 30 minutes in a normal person can’t take this seriously and will be supremely entertained and possibly nauseated. Watch this with the English dubbing on for the best possible experience.
1. Election (2005)
This isn’t a traditional Cat III movie, in a sense, but it was slapped with that rating because of its depiction of Triad life. That being said, Election is the most well made picture to be labeled Category III and that’s why it’s number one on my list. Director Johnnie To, Hong Kong’s best filmmaker in my opinion, tells the tale of gangsters backstabbing and allying with each other all for the purpose of being top dog. If you’re an aficionado of the genre, you’ll also recognize Simon Yam and Suet Lam in the cast, both of whom give excellent performances, as do all the actors. From the excellent directing to the impressive cinematography and twisting, turning storyline, the film is an absolute gem.
TORR is a Technical Writer at TechnicalWriters.Us