The Success Of The Kong Hong Crossover Film

Chapter 1 Introduction


The purpose for this dissertation is to discover what is crossover film and what makes the crossover film a success. The cinema of Hong Kong has consider as the pioneer of chinese language movie. Especially between the 1970’s – 1990’s, most of movie fans will be familiar with names like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, John Wu from Hong Kong cinema. The reason why these movie star become so popular because they produce a lot of martial art film during that time. And then these martial art film brought to the western audiences. In fact, A lot of english speaking country or european start to aware of asian movie in that time. However, the English audiences might consider these martial art film as the crossover film. The English audiences think these martial art film as the crossover probably because these martial art film come with simple plot. The story are quite easy to understand for them such as the good and evil character. So the audienes are not nessesary to understand what the character speaking. Therefore, there is no language boundary when the english audiences watch it. In my research, these martial arts films in the past does not count as the crossover film. I would say the crossover film is relate to several elements which is culture references, co-production, company investment, audiences expectation, marketing, etc.

Research background

Back to Hong Kong cinema, The cinema of Hong Kong is one of the major movie industry in the Chinese language speaking cinema. Before 1997, Hong Kong was a colony of Britain and therefore Hong Kong had a greater freedom on economic and political than mainland China. Even in film industry, The censorship system in Mainland China have a very strHYPERLINK ""ict rule. “ Hong Kong filmmakers either steered away from criticzing China or did so in oblique ways “(Clara Law’s Farewell China,1989. P.127: Bordwell, 2000). Therefore, the Hong Kong film maker can barely sell their film or have to re-produce another verison to adapt the market in China. On the other hand, the America or other Euro country censorship syetem are vary widely than China. And a lot of Hong Kong film producers try to sell their films to some western country. But I think it was not that easy for the very beginning because the western audiences probably haven’t seen any kind of asian movie before. “European and North American audiences have never been particularly interested in Asian cinema, Apart from the occasional exotic import and anime.? (D. Bordwell, 2003, P. 83)

During the 1970s, the matrial art /Ku fung film become one of the major theme in Hong Kong. “Golden Harvest was the top studio, signing up Jackie Chan, the kung fu comedy actor-filmmaker who would spend the next twenty years as Asia's biggest box office draw? (Chan and Yang, 1998, P. 164–165: Bordwell, 2000). However, during the 1990’s. there was a industry crisis because of the Asian financial crisis and also the illegal copy and download over the internet. However, there was a few local film receive a huge success even it was a hard time for film industry by that period. Those are the film that I am going to cover in my research.

Chapter 2 What is crossover film?

2.1 Chapter introduction

In this chapter, I will be discuss how we define crossover film especially the film made in Hong Kong. Also, Hong Kong produced a lot of martial art or action movie during the late 1980’s and early 1900’s. And That’s probably relate to the politcal and society problem. It might be represent the identity of Hong Kong movie as the martial art film from the english audiences. And I want to find out why they have this thought. Apart from these martial art film, do they know other films that made in Hong Kong?

2.2 Hong Kong movie = Ku fung ?

The Martial art movie can be chase back to 1930’s originally. And the Chinese people called it “Wuxia? film, the term “Wuxia? is based on some fictional Chinese novel and always use of the old chinese dynasty as the background. The features of these “Wuxia? characters always appear with sword as the weapon and come with superpower. The “Wuxia? film probably the most popular genre in the early cinema of Mainland China. I think the Chinese audiences need this kind of topic in the cinema such as heroic and myth after the post-war period. However, the chinese government strongly disapprove “Wuxia? film in China as the subject matter is over superstition and violence. And some Hong Kong movie producer try to bring action movie to Hong Kong audiences in the late 1930’s. The reason is Hong Kong had a superior level of freedom as the social culture and economy development during the colony era. That was the competitive advantage for Hong Kong could produce some action film but Mainland China. “In the British colony of Hong Kong, which had since 1950’s transformed itself from an entreport to an industial city, the 1960’s was also a period of rapid economic growth and social turmoil? (Po Shek fu and David Desser, P.71: Cambridge university press, 2000). Therefore, I believe the martial arts movie has became popular start by the late 1960’s. The Martial arts movies still feature “Wuxia? style in the early Hong Kong cinema. However, there was some significant change in the Hong Kong cinema during the 1970’s. I think the first time to allow western audiences to get to know about Hong Kong movies is the master of martial arts Bruce Lee return to Hong Kong cinema. Bruce Lee's career achievement as well as cultural aspects of the film have an influence, he not only open the gate for the Chinese to first enter Hollywood, but also created his own philosophy on martial arts - Jeet Kune Do. And make Action movies become one of the mainstream genres in Hong Kong. The early co-production with hollywood (Warner Bros) and Hong Kong (Golden Harvest) was “Enter the Dragon? in 1973. It was also the first time Hong Kong attempt to break into western audiences market. The film combined the traditional Kung fu and James bond action style genres. It wasn’t really successful for the first breakthrough with western audiences because Lee dead in 1973. And then the action movie production seem to be lay low for while. This situation change until Golden Harvest studio sign up Jackie Chan as the action movie star.

Jackie Chan as early as 1982 when it began to break into the Hollywood market, but he does not run smoothly into the international road. His first foray into the international market film called "Cannonball Run". Unfortunately at the box office failure, And then after many years later Jackie took the first Hollywood movie "Rush Hour" which made him become popular in Hollywood. During the 70’s –early 90’s, Hong Kong exported a lot of local movie to western country. In my opinon, I think the western audiences probably consider the early Hong Kong action movie as the crossover film. But I think these action movies just the films that made in Hong Kong. Therefore, I m going to look for the real definition for crossover film in next paragraph.

2.3 The definition of crossover film

In fact, I can’t find any book that mention about the term “crossover film? during my research. However, I found some other sourse over the internet to explain what is crossover film. Also I will use my own understanding to outline the definition of crossover film through the research. When I start typing the word “crossover film? on google search engine. I found this web blogger called Pardesi over the internet and talk about what he/she thinks about crossover film. This blogger Pardesi make a compare between two successful crossover films which is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Slumdog Millionaire in the blog entry. Pardesi suggest that the definition of crossover film “Such films go beyond the traditional markets in the home country, or already exploited by films from the country, and usually end up making a lot of money.? Pardesi, (2010). In my opinion, I think Pardesi only suggest crossover film more concern by marketing way. However, I believe crossover film can be relate many different elements apart from marketing. Firstly, I think it can separate into two parts which is the crossover film itself and the production. The crossover film itself can develop to culture, actor, and audiences expectation, and narrative structure. And the production element can define as company investment, finanical, special effect, and film location or studio. I think culture represent a lot within the crossover film because it can show some of the local element to western audiences. Also, it probably involve different actor from different coutry or speak different language. And the most important one is audiences expectation, the western audiences might expect to see something where the local film specialize at , or something they probably won't see from the english movie. for example, Martial art, high population or modern city scene. The second part to define crossover film is about production. firstly, it might involve western company to invest Hong Kong movie and re-packaging the film to be come suitable western marketing. Even finanical support is key element as produce a crossover film. Some western film production company might already own their advanced technology to create some imaginary scenes. However, these are just the thoughts come from my research. I will be provide some evidences to proof these elements are relevant.

2.4 Chapter summary

This chapter has mainly introduced the theories and article which relevant in this research. It can give some idea to the reader about the crossover film. Also have the primary understanding about the marketing side and production side of the crossover film. In next chapter, I will discuss more about the elements which make the crossover film success.

Chapter 3 The Crossover films

3.1 Chapter introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to use three significant crossover films as the example. And then I will discuss the key elements which bring them to become sucessfull around the global. The films I will be focus on "Kung Fu Hustle"(2004), The film saved Hong Kong film industrial during the global economic crisis and the local film industrial decline. The second film I will look at is "Rush Hour" (1998), see how the western audiences expectation change from crossover film. Finlly, I will discuss how cross-movies in the western region of Hong Kong's success, rather than in Hong Kong by using “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

3.2 Crossover to international - “Stephen Chow? and “ Kung Fu Hustle?

During the late 90’s, hong kong movie industrial met a several crisis. The internet technology was developing extremely fast. People start sharing the movie over the internet, or even purchase the illegal movie DVD copies rather than go to the cinema . Some movie production studio find it difficult to maintain the movie production as the box office decline. However, Hong Kong actor Stephen chow seem to be saved this crisis for Hong Kong movie industrial.

Hong Kong's population is 7,061,200. As a small population and economic decline region, Some Hong Kong movie studio find it hard to survive. Therefore, they can only rely on producing some low budget film to maintain the business. Nevertheless, the cinema of Hong Kong still find the way to survive from mainland China and international market. "Kung Fu Hustle" 2004 is a one of the great successful example. The film recieve highly positive result. Before "Kung Fu Hustle", there are several film which co-production with Columbria studio. Howeve, these film have failed at the box office because they remain a little local flavour.

The western audiences probably more familiar with one of the most popular actor in Hong Kong Stephen Chow. He created his own comedy style on acting called “Mo lei tau? , this term can be referred to “Silly talk?. “During an interview with Stephen Chow for his 2006 "Asian Invasion" season, the BBC's film critic Jonathan Ross referred to the genre as "Silly Talk", a label that Chow was happy to accept.? (Wikipedia. 2011. Mo lei tau), the interview also avalible on YouTube(Asian Invasion - Episode 2 Part 2) . Stephen Chow produced the first film “Shaolin Soccer? which break through the western market. However, the second film "Kung Fu Hustle " Stephen Chow became an international success. Columbia pictures impressed by stephen previous film "Shaolin Soccer" and wanted to provide finanical support to Stehpen. As a result, Stehpen came up the new idea on the film "Kung Fu Hustle" in 2004. Stephen Chow also is an actor himself, he started his acting career from a local television. In early 1990’s, he began to making film with his Mo lei tau comedy style. But this kind of acting style only limited to cantonese speakers understanding. Therefore, Stephen tried not to put too much Mo lei tau acting style in "Kung Fu Hustle", and used the CGI and pop culture references instead. In addition, Stephen co production with Columbria studio and several film studio in mainland China.

In my opinion, I think such as this kind of collaboration with western movie studio is quite benefit to Hong Kong film industrial. The reason is western movie studio has already built up a very mature technique on film production. Also, they developed some advance computer graphic during the editing part. This is a great improvement on visual effect for the Hong Kong film, so the CGI technology can perform the scene that impossible become possible. For example, “Kung Fu Hustle? refer a lot of superhuman ability combine with martial art. During the interview with BBC, Stephen said this kind of technology did a great help for his film, but he insist to put CGI graphic as the assistant role for the film. I agree what Stephen says because it won’t lose the originality with martial art element. Also, the CGI effect just play a little role that make western audiences easier accept the film rather than produce the stereotype martial art movie. The western audiences probably have seen a lot different martial art film from the past. Furthermore, the Hollywood production system more focus on quality rather than quantity. “Hollywood directors count themselves lucky to make a film every three years……In the late 1990s Andre Lau( Hong Kong director) was directing as many as 4 films per year.? (David B, P. 117 2003). In such a condition, I think hong kong filmmaker can only produce some low budget film and lack of idea on creating some stunning story. Therefore, I reckon the collaboration between western film studio and Hong Kong film maker which is quite benefit to Hong Kong film to break through western market.

Apart from big company support, Stephen Chow also wanted try some new element into the film such as put a several American pop culture in different scenes. These references including Road Runner “Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner? , and a dance scene which refer to Amercian musical “West side story? and the horror scene “The Shinging?1908. When I look at some Hong Kong movie in the past, I think they can't become mainstream movie in western country because the film is more focus on local audiences taste. Only some of the popular martial art or action movie can be sell to western. Beside, the western audiences only understand because these film content involve simple plot such as bad character get beat up by the good character. It might be already label that Hong Kong movie represent martial art or kung fu in some sence. Therefore, I believe the way to make western audiences re-consider Hong Kong movie not just another martial art or action film could be consider to put some western pop culture. This is not only reduce the language boundry, but also bring up some new element to the film.

3.3 Cultural cross-over movie? Rush Hour?

Even Stephen Chow’s gain a hugh success from western market. There is still some movie fans not quite fancy foreign film. Especially the film is based on chinese language. According to producer Terence Chang “A lot of Hong Kong films have things that I think American audiences can’t accept.? D. Bordwell (P.19 ,2000) In 1998, Jackie Chan finally arrived to Hollywood. Chan’s “Rush hour? series become at Rank #1 at the North American box-office with a weekend gross of $33 million in September 1998 (figure on Appendix -1) Which is unexpected result for foreign film.

I would say the Martial Art combine buddy movie opened the gate for crossover film. The movie applied the buddy film style like the hollywood film normally use. In "Rush Hour", it is about a Chinese inspector and American detective. The character James Carter (Chris Tucker) keeps the American comedy element in the film, and Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) remain his action scenes throughout the movie. I think the audiences have never seen the buddy film like this before which bring a lot of new visual elements to them. However, Jackie Chan reveal on his official blog that he didn't really like the film and he felt very disappointed. Chan Said, “I felt the style of action was too Americanized and I didn’t understand the American humor.? Which I consider the film might suitable for western audiences rather than local audiences. In “Rush Hour? series, there are a lot of jokes which based on minority racial stereotypes in American society. I think that makes the film easier to get accepted by majority white audiences. The two character portray totally different personality. Carter portray as a loud, speak with high pitch, impulsive, childish Black man who often causing trouble, Lee is a respectful Asian man who good at Kung Fu. According to King (2002) points out that ‘‘reduce any threat created by the spectacle of a seemingly dominating Black character’’ (p. 149).These features of both characters become likeable for the western audiences.

In Bar fighting scene, Lee says “Whats up my Nigger? to the bartender because Carter said that to the African customer. But Lee doesn’t understand the word?Nigger? is a racist word to African. I think the director uses quite a lot this kind of jokes in the film to reflect the culture differences from society. In contrast with Jackie Chan’s earlier Hong Kong action movie. He represented as a masculinity and tough character most of the time. But in “Rush Hour?, character Lee who always wanted help the FBI to solve the case. And the FBI try to use character Carter to send Lee away. Altough White Character involved small role in this film. I think the director still want White character to portray as important position in the film.

3.4 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

(Crouching Tiger was very well received in the Western world, however Crouching Tiger was widely dismissed as just another 'wuxia' film among many others in asia.)

Chapter 4 Research Methodology

4.1 Chapter introduction

The purpose of the primary research provide the basic level of understanding for the researcher. I will use questionnaire during the primary research. The questionnaire will be conducted ten questions which indicate the western audiences interest on crossover film. The result will indicate the future trends for crossover film. This chapter will be described how the methodology adopt and analysis research question. Furthermore, this chapter is going to explain the research design, research location, sampling design and data collection process, survey instrument, and ethical issue.

4.2 Research processes

Primary research: Survey

àQuestionnaire by Student/Internet users

àCollect from: Northampton/ linking the questionnaire on facebook

àAnalyze results

In primary research, it will be carry out a questionnaire research. According to Ticehurst, Gregory W (2000: P.135) defined a questionnaire survey is the way to collect information from individual by using a set of question. Therefore, I believe the first to do is focus on what type of information and respondent are looking for. Then start to think about an appropriate questions for the research. The primary research will only take 10% part of this dissertation. The reason is I am hoping to get about medium size of response rate from that. Here is the brief descript type of questionnaire survey will be use:

Type of questionnaire


Length of questionnaire

Response rate





4.3 Research Location

The questionnaire survey is taken place from the three locations in Northampton which are the Abbeyfield school , Northampton town center and University of Northampton. The reason of chosen these place to research because it can save time to traveling different places which far way from Northampton. Further more, it can widely spread collecting the data over the internet.

4.4 Survey Instrument Development

The questionnaire (Appendix). There are 3 parts of the questionnaire. The first part is about personal information such as age, gender. this is designed to collect the demographic data of the respondents. Then, the second part is about the respondent’s knowledge on crossover film. That is to collect the information about how much respondent know about crossover film. Finally, the third part is about respondent’s interest on crossover film. And that is designed to what sort element the respondent like so I can provide the recommendation for the future crossover film.

4.5 Ethic Issue in Research

The protection for the respondent’s information is one of the most important thing in the research. In “Doing your research project?, According to the Judith Bell (2005: 51) the researcher can follow two things to maintain the respondent’s right when they carry out a research. 1.) Keep the participant innominate. 2.) Treat all the information as confidential file which from the respondent. However, My questionnaire is based on personal opinion rather than personal details. Therefore, I suppose my research will not meet any ethical issue.

Chapter 5 Conclusion

5.1 The future for the crossover film

5.2 Conclusion


Part -1

Rush Hour

Domestic Total Gross: $141,186,864

Distributor: New Line

Release Date: September 18, 1998

Genre: Action Comedy

Runtime: 1 hrs. 37 min.

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Production Budget: $33 million



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Part -2

I am a student from University of Northampton. I am going to conduct a survey about the Crossover film that made in Hong Kong. I would be grateful if you could finish this questionnaire. Your honest view is taken with highly to appreciate. All the information in the questionnaire will be kept confidential for analysis only. Thank you very much.

(Please tick the appropriate box)


□ Male □ Female


□ 15 ~ 25 □ 25 ~ 35 □ 35~ 45 □ 45 ~ above

Do you know any of these asian movie stars from below?

□ Jackie Chan □ Bruce Lee □ Jet Li □ Stephen Chow

□ Andy Lau □ Tony Leung □ Other ________________

Have you ever watched any other films that has been made in Hong Kong?

□ Yes □ No

□ Not sure if the film is made in Hong Kong

5. How often do you watch Hong Kong movies?

□ Daily □ Weekly □ Monthly □ Occasionally

6. Do you think Hong Kong movies representing martial arts?

□ Yes □ No

□ Not sure

Do you understand what the story is about when you watch crossover films?

If the film is using original Chinese language, just subtitles. (such as these films for example)

Shaolin soccer, kung fu hustle, Internal affairs, In the mood for love

□Yes □No

8. Do you prefer to see the actor you familiar with from Hong Kong movie?

□Yes □ No

What sort of things do you expect to see when you watch a Hong Kong movie?

□Kung Fu fighting □Action movie star

□Local culture □Comedy

Would you recommend friends to watch film that made in Hong Kong?

□Yes □No