Hitting the target
David Wu receives the Legendary Action Excellence Award at the Canadian premiere of his latest film, Cold Steel, in Fantasia.
A trip to Fantasia International Film Festival isn’t complete for me without a venture into Hong Kong action cinema and, for this year, that honour fell to wartime-set sniper thriller Cold Steel, which received its Canadian premiere yesterday (21) at the festival.
Directed by David Wu, Cold Steel marks Wu’s return to feature film directing in China after 17 years directing television series in North America. As you’d expect from a regular collaborator with John Woo - Wu edited the likes of A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled - the film is a sharply edited ballet of explosions and bullets that went down a storm with the fervent Fantasia crowd.
Prior to the screening, Wu was presented with the Legendary Action Excellence Award in recognition of his 40 years in the industry, and introduced the film by describing fans of Hong Kong action cinema as his “greatest drive”.
“Our one goal was to make great movies for people who love Hong Kong movies all over the world. Most of all, I really appreciate all of your passion for Hong Kong movies and I promise everyone that we will keep on going until we drop.” Wu jokingly added: “I hope you like the movie, if you don’t like it, we have a sniper rifle.”
Returning for an animated Q&A - along with the film’s composer Lawrence Shragge - following the screening, Wu explained that his main reason for Cold Steel marking his return to both feature films and his native land was his love of the original novel the movie stems from.
“It’s about every young man’s journey because when they really start working out their career, through the other window, romance flies in which brings great conflict. That’s why I loved the story which can everyone can relate to.”
Alongside writing and directing Cold Steel, Wu also edited the film because he knows himself better than anyone else. “At the same time, I always try give a lot of young talent the chance to take my chair so I can concentrate on my directing and writing.
“This baby was really a tough job for me because first I wrote it, as I told the producer that if I’m not writing it, I’m not shooting it. Then I directed and cut it, so the process is tough and sometimes I just like to sit back.”
Various inspirations for the film were revealed, both from Wu’s perspective and for Shragge when it came to composing the score. “Inspiration was from lots of different sources but I think David and I have a common love of [Ennio] Morricone,” Shragge noted. “Certainly some of that made its way into the score and it was just a great film to do music for.”
For Wu, one particular shot out of the Bourne trilogy - as the camera follows Matt Damon jumping through a window - made its way into the film, with him determined to one-up it. “I saw the shot and thought it was a great shot but once he jumped through the roof and crashed through the window, it cut. I said ‘come on!’
“So I said I’m going to do it better than them. I had my camera operator on a longer line and I said you’ve got to go in with our hero as our shot doesn’t cut there - as much as I love cutting - I said no cut, so I said to my cameraman ‘you come back with this shot, or you don’t come back’. He did it in one take.”
Your move, Renner.