Sunday, November 20, 2011

Movie Review: Bury Me High

This Chinese movie had a huge budget for a Hong Kong film.  Tsui Sui-Ming had enough money for full-on war scenes, involving hundreds of soldiers, a dozen or so tanks, helicopters, entire south east Asian villages, and more explosions per minute than a Michael Bay feature.

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Bury Me High
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 1.2 out of 5
MST3K-Ability 2.6 out of 5
OVERALL QUALITY 1.5 out of 5
Chinese Movie Bury Me High
Director Tsui Sui-Ming
Actors Moon Lee, Chin Kar-Lok, Tsui Sui-Ming
Year 1991
Format Viewed VCD Fortune Star JS/VCD/3035/HK  What is a VCD?

Tsui Sui-Ming also traveled internationally with his cast and crew, filming some of this on location in Los Angeles, some in Hong Kong, some in what looks like a Hollywood Western, and a lot in what looks like a Vietnam War movie's back lot.

Is it a Western?

Or an LA Police movie?

Or a Vietnam War movie?

Recognize this pose?
It has some awesome, well choreographed fight scenes from Chin Kar-Lok and from the other principals of the film too.  It has well-planned, dramatic, and often very effective cinematography, with really effective use of color and lighting and camera placement.  On the strength of the fight scenes and the cinematography alone, this movie should have been so much better than it is.

But something, somewhere, went horribly wrong with this Chinese movie.  From your average movie goer's perspective, Bury Me High ended up a confusing, jumbled mess.  From the Gweilo's perspective though, there's perhaps enough silliness in the confusion for a mildly amusing time.

Heavy-Handed Exposition

One of the first problems with this Chinese movie becomes evident even before the film itself starts:  A huge screen of text explaining the premise of the movie before we actually see any action.

The premise of Bury Me High is that certain locations have more Feng Shui than others, and if you are buried in one of these magic spots your decedents will have lots of luck.  That's not a hard concept to grasp, but for some reason Tsui Sui-Ming feels like he has to explain this over and over and over again to the viewer at every chance he gets.  For example, when two small kids watch their father die right in front of them, one of the characters takes the opportunity to lecture to them about the film's premise instead of comforting them.

Tediously, characters like this explain the same information again and again.  If that wasn't enough, Tsui Sui-Ming gives us long flash-back scenes to parts of the movie we'd seen only moments before.  I think it's safe to say that making the film's premise excruciatingly clear was at the top of Tsui Sui-Ming's priorities list.

Confused and Muddled Plot

It's also safe to say that the rest of this film does not suffer from too much clarity.  The heroes of Bury Me High are a business executive, a "hacker", a UCLA Professor of Astronomy.  I should mention that in the world of this film "Astronomy" means the same thing as "Feng Shui Astrology".  And, yes, the Professor tediously explains the premise of the movie several times, most notably in a Los Angeles planetarium, lecturing to a bunch of Hollywood extras who are trying to look like interested UCLA students.  I should also mention that the Professor is played by the director himself, Tsui Sui-Ming, who obviously really, Really has a thing for this movie's premise!

This crew has a series of disconnected adventures, starting with a fight about fruit juice in a "trendy" Los Angeles disco, which makes them decide to "sneak into" a made up east Asian country named Carrinan.  But something must have gotten lost in translation, because the next scene shows their plane landing to an army procession, a full brass band, and a ticker tape parade.

If this is what it looks like when you are "sneaking" somewhere...
...then you are doing it very wrong.
Next, while driving along a rural road, they suddenly get attacked for no reason at all by an entire village in which every single occupant has a machine gun hidden somewhere (under their hat, under their chair, behind their cat, etc.)  For the next five minutes there's explosions and machine gun fire and . . .

. . . and, honestly, it's one of the silliest things I've ever seen, although it's not intended to be comic at all.  It's like Tsui Sui-Ming decided the movie was getting a little dull, and he had a huge special effects budget, so why not put in several minutes worth of gunfire and explosions and people falling off exploding bridges and so forth.  He doesn't even try to make it make sense.

After that, it just gets worse, with a military coup (in which our newly-arrived heroes are nonsensically key figures), with more gun fights and bomb fights and kung fu and a really improbable escape by freight train.  And then, just when you thought it couldn't get more random, out of nowhere he throws in a bunch of Raiders of the Lost Ark stuff.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Stuff

My guess is that Tsui Sui-Ming was a big fan of the Indiana Jones movies.  There's tons of Indiana Jones . . . references? . . . throughout Bury Me High.  If it was a comedy movie, these references would constitute a running gag.  But here they just seem weird and out of place.  Like this version of the map room in Raiders of the Lost Ark:

The Map Room
And watch for this film's own version of the iconic Ha-Ha-I've-got-the-key-branded-on-my-hand plot twist.

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  It's a heavy-handed, big-budget mess.  Genre-wise, it's all over the map.  It's potentially weird enough to provide some amusement from the Gweilo's perspective, but there's not really enough to raise it into true WTF or MST3K territory.


  1. This is a Wisely film, so of course it has Indiana Jones references! See also, The Seventh Curse, The Wesley's Mysterious File, The Cat, etc.

    Awesome blog. I can't tell you what a joy it is to look at the list of tags and see "Taoist priest" in disproportionately sized letters.

  2. @ M. H. Boroson:

    That's great. I've got The Wesley's Mysterious File in the queue for an upcoming review!

    I'm glad you like the blog! Expect to see the "Taoist Priest" tag get even bigger, as I start adding more hopping vampire films.