This page was created in order to help newcomers understand some of the common terms used in describing Hong Kong Cinema and DVDs.


Animated cartoon version of Manga.


As is the case with many Manga comics, Anime frequently contains explicit sex and violence.


Pixelation/Artifacting usually manifests itself as a "roughening" of the picture, and can be an extremely distracting occurrence in its worst cases. This is not an inherent problem with DVD's, and, with careful mastering, can be avoided.
VCD's often have problems with Artifacting, as do some Hong Kong DVD's - particularly those mastered by Mei-Ah.


Refers to the width-to-height ratio that a film was originally shot in i.e. 2.35:1, 1.85:1, 1.78:1, etc.

To put it very simply, watching a film with a 2.35:1 ratio will produce a greater amount of black bar than a 1.85:1 ratio print, but will contain more picture widthways.

For a much more in-depth breakdown of DVD and its nuances, read the DVDFaq.


Term used to decribe actresses who often appear in films as skilled martial artists or weapons specialists.
Also can be used to indicate a genre of films which feature female-on-male, or female-on-female action sequences.

Hong Kong cinema has always been very mixed in its portayals of woman, either showing them as helpless and unimportant, or strong and fearless.
Battling Babes are the latter, and are often pitted against men in no holds barred fight scenes.
Michelle Yeoh is a perfect example of a Battling Babe, having made her name appearing in such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Yes Madam!, and Police Story 3.


Hong Kong film classification referring to films suitable for children and adults alike.


H.K. film classification - refers to movies containing violence, bad language and adult story-lines, which are not suitable for children.

More common nowadays are the ratings Category II A and Category II B.
These were implemented so there could be a bit more flexibility when rating films, as often movies fell between being Cat.II and Cat.III. This left the classifiers with the option of either cutting-out certain material, or releasing the movie with a Cat.III rating - which would often limit its theatrical success.

Cat.II A
is the same as Cat.II - Not suitable for children.

Cat.II B refers to films which are unsuitable for young people and children.


HK Film classification referring to movies containing explicit violence, sex and language, not suitable for minors.

The 90's saw an explosion in Cat.III films with offerings such as Bunman - The Untold Story.
Containing graphic scenes of rape and mutilation, Bunman, and Category III films in general, quickly began attracting Horror fans the world over.


Refers to a disc which has the first, slightly transparent, layer placed over the second, so the disc is able to contain more information.
Single Layer can holds 4.7Gb, Dual Layer 8.5Gb.

In theory, a Dual-Layer disc should have better picture quality than a single-layer one. This, however, isn't always the case (as is evident with some Media Asia discs), and superior picture quality is more down to a transfer's encoding than anything else.


Type of subtitles which are transcribed from the dubbed, English soundtrack of a film, rather than the original language soundtrack.

Whilst not usually a problem with HK produced DVD's, Dub-titling is unfortunately becoming more apparent on many UK and US produced discs.
The real problem with Dub-titling is that dialogue tends to vary wildly between the English and Chinese soundtracks, resulting in subtitles which bare no relation to the original language the film was shot in.
Other known offenders of Dub-titling are Snake In the Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master (Hong Kong Legends) and Gen-X Cops (Columbia Tri-Star).
For a specific example of Dub-titling, read the Subtitles section of the Drunken Master review.


Slightly derogatory. Cantonese term for "Westerners" or "Foreigners".

Literally translated, it means "Ghost Fellow". Although this translation doesn't seem offensive, Gwai-Lo can also be translated as "Devil Man" - changing its meaning somewhat.


First coined by Rick Baker (a Hong Kong film fanatic), Heroic-Bloodshed refers to any film containing large amounts of gunplay. More specifically, it indicates a film whose "hero" is usually maimed or killed by the final reel.

Recommended Viewing:
Full Contact (Ringo Lam)
The Killer (John Woo)
Hard Boiled (John Woo)
A Better Tomorrow 1&2 (John Woo)
A Hero Never Dies (Johnnie To)
War Named Desire, A (Alan Mak)


Slang term for someone from Hong Kong.


The point on a disc where the DVD's laser refocuses to read the second layer of a Dual-Layer disc.

The position of the layer-change, i.e. at which point it occurs in the film, is entirely up to the disc's producer.
A well placed layer-change is almost unnoticeable, although a poorly placed one can ruin the atmosphere of a scene because of the slight pause which occurs whilst the laser refocuses.


Japanese comic book.

Manga comics are a far cry from their Western counterparts, often containing explicit sex and violence, although specific titles for children are also available.
Virtually everyone in Japan, no matter their age, regularly reads Manga comics.


Term used to describe live-action adaptations of Japanese Manga comics or Anime.

films are often shot in a style befitting their comic-book roots, with visual effects, slapstick comedy, vibrantly coloured sets, and over the top, Wire-Work enhanced, action sequences.
Well-known entries in this genre include Saviour Of The Soul, Story Of Riki AKA Riki Oh, Wicked City, Future Cops, Dragon From Russia and City Hunter.


Term used to refer to Traditional Kung-Fu films.


Code which is digitally stamped onto a disc in order to stop it being played in a machine with a differing Regional Code.
There are 6 Regional Codes which relate to different parts of the World.

Regional Codes are not required by Law to be included onto discs, and as such, some discs are produced without them. So called Region Free/Region 0 discs are playable on any machine.
For a map of the Regional Codes go here.


Cantonese term for "Teacher". Commonly used by Kung-Fu students to address their instructor.


Film, usually set pre-1900's, where hand-to-hand combat has been replaced with weapons combat.

Swordplay films usually contain large amounts of Wire-Work. This is used to indicate the characters high level of internal power, and also to allow for more extravagant choreography.
Ching Siu-Tung is probably the most well-known director of the genre, lending his trademark swordplay, Wire-Work and intricate storytelling to numerous films.

Recommended Viewing:
Swordsman 2 (Ching Siu-Tung)
Duel To The Death (Ching Siu-Tung)
Moon Warriors (Sammo Hung & Ching Siu-Tung)
Romance Of The Book and Sword (Ann Hui)


Movie filmed with "live" sound. i.e. the sound is recorded at the same time as the visuals.

Until recently, Synch-Sound technology was rarely used in Hong Kong films, with the soundtrack being "dubbed" in post-production.
One of the reasons for this were the incredibly noisy locations the films were often shot in. Planes frequently flew over the sets, ruining the scenes and wasting the time and money of the Producers.


Refers to films containing traditional Kung-Fu techniques in their fight scenes, made in the 70's and early 80's, rather than the Wire-Work and Kickboxing used in films of the late 80's.

Recommended Viewing:
Drunken Master (Yuen Woo-Ping)
Prodigal Son, The (Sammo Hung)
Warriors Two (Sammo Hung)
Dirty Ho (Liu Chia-Liang)
Magnificent Butcher, The (Yuen Woo-Ping)


Term used to describe Swordplay movies which contain little or no Wire-Work to enhance their choreography.

I made this term up in order to differentiate between the two styles of Swordplay movies - the ones which contain a lot of Wire-Work i.e. Swordsman 2, and the ones which don't i.e Last Hurrah For Chivalry.
I've no idea if this term has been coined by anyone else, or if it means something different to the description I've given. I only use it in the manner described above.

Recommended Viewing:
Last Hurrah For Chivalry (John Woo)


Refers to a poorly mastered disc in which moving objects on screen are followed by a "trail" of subsequent images.

As stated, this is a problem which is not inherent to DVD, and is avoidable by careful encoding. However, some DVD's aren't supervised properly in their production, and are released with this very noticeable encoding error.
A Hero Never Dies is particularly guilty of this.


Gangsters, not unlike the Mafia, whose main areas of income include prostitution, gambling and drugs.

Triad societies originated in the 1900's as a means to combat the ruling Ching Government.
The societies of today could care less about such patriotic tendencies, and, with their extravagant lifestyles, Triads have been the perfect subject matter for hundreds of films - some based on their real-life exploits.

Recommended Viewing:
A Better Tomorrow 1&2 (John Woo)
A Moment Of Romance (Benny Chan)
A Hero Never Dies (Johnnie To)
Hard Boiled (John Woo)
Longest Nite, The (John Woo)


Technique used in virtually all Hong Kong fights scenes to increase the pace of the action.
Sequences are speeded up, after filming, to improve the impact of the choreography.

In recent years the speed at which these scenes have "cranked-up" to has reached absurd levels, reducing the sophisticated choreography to a blurred mess.
A technique which used to provide an extra "edge" to Hong Kong action, is ruining films with its overuse.
Prime examples are Blade Of Fury and Iron Monkey, which would actually benefit from being slowed down - allowing you to fully appreciate the action.


Term signifying a film where the Kung-fu has been entirely enhanced by Wire-Work.
Instead of depicting realistic action, it opts for mid-air combat, death-defying jumps and improbable flying.

Wire-Fu is a play on words of Kung-Fu, and usually refers to films set either in the future or which predate the 1900's.
Wire-Fu films tend to represent the most extreme use of Wire-Work, and are definitely an acquired taste...

Recommended Viewing:
Once Upon A Time In China 3 (Tsui Hark)
Kung-Fu Cult Master (Wong Jing)
East Is Red (Ching Siu-Tung)


Use of wires, connected to actors, allowing gravity-defying movements such as multiple flying kicks, mid-air spins and huge leaps.

After the success of Once Upon A Time In China (1991), the use of Wire-Work, to enhance fight choreography, has been increasingly used in Hong Kong Cinema.
Unfortunately, this trend has escalated to the point where the use of Wire-Work has reached ridiculous levels, and created a new genre called Wire-Fu films.
A good introduction to Wire-Work would be Once Upon A Time In China, which manages a perfect blend of "real" and "enhanced" Kung-Fu.

Recommended Viewing:
Once Upon A Time In China (Tsui Hark)
Once Upon A Time In China 2 (Tsui Hark)
Fong Sai Yuk (Yuen Kwai)
Moon Warriors (Sammo Hung/Ching Siu-Tung)
Duel To The Death (Ching Siu-Tung)
Swordsman 2 (Ching Siu-Tung)