Alex Abramovich
November 28, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

Half handbook, half expose, this magnificent survey of the shadow world of Hong Kong cinema packs a one-two punch that should connect with even the most fanatical fans. In the first half of Hong Kong Babylon: An Insider’s Guide to the Hollywood of the East, investigative journalist Fredric Dannen lays bare the workings of a mob-run factory system; it turns out to be just as seamy and violent as the movies it cranks out — a world in which the phrase ”contracts” takes on a dark double meaning. In the second part, film critic Barry Long looks beyond John Woo and Jackie Chan to compile an exhaustive reference guide to dozens of lean, mean Hong Kong flicks, which cram enough thrills into 90 minutes to put the average Hollywood blockbuster to shame. A-

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