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Added by shotswerefired on 27 Jun 2021 11:55

Alex Man: The Greatest of Them All

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His debut. It is very impressive that his first credit as a performer is of a leading man. A lot of people can spend a lifetime getting nowhere in an industry like his, yet lo and behold, this guy manages to strike gold at the first time of asking. He was only 19 years old mind you.

You can already tell anyway that he was a star in the making. Some people complain that he puts too much effort into his acting. However, he does barely anything here and still manages to chew up the scenery.

This is Alex as you've never seen him before. Emo, vulnerable and helpless. That sounds a lot like something Tony Leung Chiu Wai would do. But yeah, this is another side of Alex I'm not used to. All his other roles were very animated, but here it's so downbeat and pared of any vitality. He was after all conditioned to be a coldblooded killer from birth, and through that experience, carries a pessimistic view on the value of human life. He would turn that worldview inwardly against himself, leading to the abandonment of his riches and fame into a life of humility as a handyman in a brothel. An awful lot like Siddhartha Gautama's story but gone horribly wrong.

Imo, he did very well here. Not what you would call expert, but a diamond in the rough nonetheless. I've watched Alex Man since a young age, and it's only now that I've come across this early piece of work. It was a treat and definitely has my recommendation.
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Emperor Zhengde was the first role he undertook that was a villain. It would be a challenging role for anyone, regardless of their experience. But it didn't seem to phase him at all, as he absolutely slayed it. 2 years into the business, and already he's behaving like a pro. All those mannerisms and affected airs exhibited by the aristocracy, he had them down to a tee. His lines were always delivered with marked eloquence befitting for his blue blooded upbringing. The character is also equipped with a hideous laugh to add towards his deranged psychological makeup.

Despite not receiving top billing, I think he turned out the best performance of the whole cast. His interpretation of Zhengde is that of a charmer, who was able to get his own way with the ladies and ministers through his glib tongue and charisma. He's the kind of guy that prefers to sit back and let his subordinates do all the work for him, administrative and military tactics, while he buggers off to frolic with his harem of hoes. As a rule, said subordinates will also be purged once they start to pose even the slightest threat to his throne.

Prior to seeing him in this role, I had already been acquainted with some of his work during the early 90s, where he played characters that were bumblers. Had I not been notified by someone already, I would never have known then that it was the same guy. I was shocked and had difficulty reconciling with that fact at first. There have been many admirable performances of nobility, but Alex was just a cut above the rest.

The Reincarnated trilogy had a plethora of great villains. Dugu Wudi, Goon Jung Lau, and Emperor Zhengde completes this trio of wickedness.

Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 6.6
The Secret (2004)
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 0

For the role of Manchu emperor, Yongzheng, he continues the same tradition of ruthlessness that marked the fictional Zhengde's reign. Although, in Alex's hands, it felt like a horse of a different colour. Yongzheng is far more collected and less prone to fits of rage. He is Machiavellian in his dealings with his enemies and more hands-on than manipulative. Rather than befriending his foes, he makes them fear him.

I would pinpoint his personality as the sugar and ice variety. Being that certain people are treated to his frosty exterior, which can be a mix of aloofness and callousness. While the few lucky ones, such as the love of his life, gets to experience the warmer and emotive side.

Given the high body count to his name, Alex could've gone the stereotypical route in his portrayal of evil. I think most would given the type of murders he orchestrated such as fratricide, parenticide and the slaughter of his loyal subjects. But instead, he goes about everthing as if it was Tuesday ;), and simply saw it as part and parcel of his consolidation of power. This quality actually adds to his formidability, and makes him more dangerous than he would appear. Evil's face is never clear-cut and that's the scary thing.

His performance of Zhengde was so good, it was a no-brainer that Alex would land a role in this series about the Qing imperial court the following year. But to get the main role, despite being about 20 years younger than the character of Yongzheng, meant that the producers had every faith in his capabilities. He had to play the elder brother of his costar Ng Wai Kwok too, who was his senior in real life, and he did it so convincingly.
shotswerefired's rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 4 IMDB Rating 0

This series was supposed to be a big deal in Alex's career, the first season in particular, but I don't think it has stood the test of time. There's just far too much nonsense in the script to take it seriously. The fact that they also paid so much attention on Zhang Sanfeng as a lover and a detective, really lost a lot of points for me. That is not Zhang Sanfeng at all. Nobody who is familiar with his legend and achievements would embrace that sort of depiction. Not Alex's fault, he was only doing what is asked of him. Although it was a fine performance in its own right, blending precocity and naivety to create what he believes was the master in his formative years, I can still never envision him as Zhang Sanfeng with all that fluff slapped on top.
shotswerefired's rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 4 IMDB Rating 0

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Alex has proved his mettle with his previous credits that there's no role too big for him. Neither is there one too small, as shown here where he plays a coolie. This is the first time we get treated with the big brothers of their respective tv stations, both together in one film. Chow for TVB and Alex for RTV. It won't be the last.

Chow, during this period, was simply going through the motions with TVB, having set his sights on a film career. After his shoddy turn as Linghu Chong in "The Smiling, Proud Wanderer", it's hard to believe he delivered an award-winning performance in the same year. But I think he saved his best ammunition for this role. And he needed that, because he was up against someone who can do no wrong in this field.

While this can't be called one of Alex's iconic roles, it's still a memorable one, partly due to the classic song about poverty that's attached to his character.

shotswerefired's rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.8

The most famous role of his career. Some argue it's his best ever, but I have some reservations about that. There's no denying though that the most iconic moments of TVB history stems from this landmark production.

The series (The Feud of Two Brothers) itself is very well made. The storyline was good, the acting was generally competent and the music complemented its atmosphere. The real star of the series though was Mr Man. He did most of the heavy lifting and effectively carried the whole show on his own shoulders. His obsession of bringing a greater fidelity to real life into his scenes was infamous, and may even have garnered the show more publicity and exposure as a result.

The most famous incident is when he caused actual injury to his costar Lawrence Ng in an improvised fight scene. It was agreed beforehand by the two of them that no fight choreographer would be involved, so that the fight would come out looking spontaneous and organic. But things didn't go completely according to plan (or Alex's plan). Lawrence was understandably livid when the scene was finished, and Alex had to make reparations as an apology.

Since then, Alex has never attempted anything remotely like that ever again. But his goal of realism in acting managed to rub off onto his costars, who were also willing to pay a small price for the sake of the art. Dodo Cheng, for example, at first, never wanted to work with Alex on this series once she learned about his reputation. But after being thoroughly impressed by his acting ability, she collaborated with him again in another series. His philosophy won her over and agreed that the sacrifices were worth it for the details, which in her case, was a resounding slap in the face.

All this is very tame when compared to the stuff other professions allow such as professional wrestling. But by the standards of certain enlightened directors of our time *cough*Tarantino*cough*, it's sooo unprofessional that it should be obviated from showbiz altogether.

...Speaking of his performance, Alex really stepped into the shoes of a cop. He was aggressive, dominant, defiant and no-nonsense. Since he was also fortunate enough to have had multiple love interests, it gave him ample room to dial up the romance too.

That ending scene in the bedroom, is one of the most imitated scenes in history. The whole dialogue was devised by him and it was done in one take.

What the taxi scene is to Brando, the cafe scene is to Brenda Blethyn, the "Tears in Rain" scene was to Rutger Hauer, the "So what?" scene is to Alex Man. In fact, it was said that the latter was the inspiration behind Alex's monologue.
shotswerefired's rating:
Average listal rating (7 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 0

Even though it was not this film that earned him the Golden Horse award, people seem to have the fondest memories of him here than with his other roles. His stature as a film actor, at this point, is definitely nowhere near Chow Yun Fat's level. Nevertheless, he was undaunted by the prestige of his rival and even manages to show him up at certain times. CYF has a great history behind him of playing gangsters, unlike Alex, prior to the making of this movie. But this felt more like Alex's stomping ground than Chow's. His track record of playing unhinged psychopaths is second to none.

I doubt anyone could've predicted how much Stephen Chow would blow up during the time this series was released. At this moment in his professional life, he was struggling to land roles. Both he and Tony Leung Chiu Wai started out at the same time, but Tony appeared to be a million miles away. It seemed there was no way he could catch him. But that all changed when Alex entered into his life and gave him that much needed push to get the ball rolling. And what a push it was, because Stephen is now pretty much out of sight of either of them in terms of box office success.

He was the wingman to Alex's main in this series. But now that his stardom has overtaken him, it was his image that dominated the posters and DVD covers, not Alex. Such is the harsh reality of business.

In terms of the performances, it's quite obvious to anyone that Alex did the best acting of the entire cast, playing a former gangster going straight. Stephen was pretty much just goofing around and hadn't quite acquired the rhythm and fluency that helped propel him into the big time just yet.
shotswerefired's rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6
Casino Tycoon (1992)

One of the few occasions where he plays a lout, and a lovable one at that. Usually he's into serious roles, but this is one of his more laid back ones, and he looks like he's having a ball here.

Though comedy is not exactly his forte, he did manage to get a few chuckles out of me. I never actually would've thought he would become the comic relief of this movie, so fair play to him. I also sense some Stephen Chow vibes here. :)
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 0
The Key Man (1992)

From silly goof to heavyweight entrepreneur. In many eyes, his last great role in the entertainment industry before he moved onto new ventures. This was his most restrained performance and he looked the part of a powerful businessman. Patient, stoic, assertive and decisive.

Some critics who had issues with the volatile style he's known for will be fully assured that there's not a jot of that here. He's managed to rein in the histrionics while still being able to maintain an excellent degree of finesse.

It's pretty amazing how people tend to associate Mr Man as the angry cop Fong Gan Cheung, when in real-life (public persona), he's a proper gent. Well-mannered and soft-spoken just like Lok Yin.

In many ways this is the 'Gary Stu' of his career. Usually I would rather watch paint dry than see this character type in action, but Alex manages to keeps things very interesting in an otherwise limited role.
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Average listal rating (1 ratings) 5 IMDB Rating 6.3

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When people speak of the actors from Hong Kong, often two names will be passing their lips: Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Chow Yun Fat. Indeed they are ranked high on many lists and given their reverence by the media, it's expected. Not so much Ekin Cheng though, whose performances are so wooden as hell, he's a fire hazard. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, he's on there, when there are countless more deserving people. Namely the actor this list is dedicated towards.

Alex Man is a veritable master of his art. He belonged to the same generation as Chow Yun Fat, and while it took Chow much longer to really find his feet, Alex settled into the job as if he already had decades of experience under his belt. He was a true prodigy. In a contest between 70s Alex vs 70s Chow, there's simply no comparison who was the better actor. The level of confidence and maturity he brought into each role was unbelievable for a person of his age.

In terms of style, without referring to any sources, I would classify him as a Method actor. Can't really say he brought anything new to the table. He's just a man who was wholly dedicated to his job and highly concerned about the final product. So if a scene required him to barf, he would literally go through the rigmarole of dieting which would induce that sort of reaction. Definitely not an alumni of Olivier's school of "just act dear boy". :)

In terms of the type of roles given, he is equally adept at playing villains as he is at heroes (or anti-heroes). I don't mean the sort of villains who earn your admiration and you root for them because of how boring the hero is. I mean, really, really despicable, treacherous, irredeemable bastards whom you want to punch in the face if you saw them in the street. While I never heard of these occurrences happening to Alex, I know of these stories being associated with Gallen Lo during his villainous phase of the early 90s. It got so bad, he switched to playing the goodie later in his career lol. For me, this is a benchmark which actors should aspire towards and there aren't many who are able to achieve that balance. Certainly not Tony and Chow.

On top of that, he is a perfectionist, who demands a lot from himself and expects the same from others. I never get the feeling of him phoning in in whatever role he took, he always gave 110%. He's probably the only lead actor I know of who officially mentors others as well (and is still actively accepting disciples in spite of his poor health). Stephen Chow, Gordon Lam and Philip Keung are some of the few notable mentees of his that went on to thrive in the film industry.

Despite his illustrious career, he has only one award to his name. But come to think of it, that's not necessary a slight on him, considering that the film industry was never really his place. If the TVB Anniversary Awards (the Hong Kong equivalent to the Emmys) existed in the 80s, he would've won Best Actor for most if not all years that he was contracted with the tv station. He is the darling of Run Run Shaw (the owner of TVB) and is often selected as the lead actor for the major tv productions of each year and for good reason.

There have been many great actors of the last century. But only a few have really occupied that rare place of legendary status in my heart, such as Marlon Brando, and Albert Finney. I daresay that, Alex, is also up there alongside them as one of the elite powerhouses of acting, who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.

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