Masculine Performance in Hong Kong Crime Films from Post-Bruce to the 2000s

Gabriel F. Y. Tsang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Masculinity, in Lacan’s sense, is an imagination. To specifically theorise Chinese masculinity, Kam Louie examined the elements of wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial valour) rendered through historical or artistic images, and Song Geng and Derek Hird guide the discussions about Chinese manhood represented in everyday life. With a Marxist perspective, Lo Kwai Cheung illustrated the dissolvability of Chinese masculinity under international capitalism. With reference to Aristotle, it is supposed that Chinese masculinity, similar to ‘tragicity’ in nature, can be represented through imitating actions and hence be perceived. Based on Aristotle’s understanding, we can regard actions as ‘iterable’ media (like Derrida’s understanding of written texts) which engender performances according to the genealogy of quantitative mimesis.

Integrating theoretical discussions with a chronological approach, my full paper will go through following points in order to summarise the changes in Hong Kong crime films from the post-Bruce Lee era to the 2000s: (1) Hong Kong crime film inherited the martial side of masculinity from action films and became a popular genre since A Better Tomorrow was well received in the mid-1980s. (2) Many directors diversified the interpretation of crime in the late 1980s and the 1990s, but remained a focus on the strength, nimbleness and boldness of men. (3) After the decline of Hong Kong film industry for several years, Infernal Affairs’s success renewed the representation of manhood. (4) From the 2000s to now, male characters in crime films are preferably intelligent and wisely-romantic, like the fragile scholar in ancient China. (5) While globalisation seems to be eliminating the Chineseness of Chinese masculinity, I argue that geographical specificity and different speed of cultural development lead to the impossibility of synchronic masculine similarity. (6) Through a brief discussion concerning Hollywood’s adaptation of Hong Kong films, I argue that local masculinity is not transformable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalAsian Journal of Humanity, Art and Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong cinema
  • crime films
  • masculinity
  • Chinese culture
  • from the 1980s to the 2000s


Dive into the research topics of 'Masculine Performance in Hong Kong Crime Films from Post-Bruce to the 2000s'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this