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‘project gutenberg’ (‘mouh seung’): film review.

'Infernal Affairs' scribe Felix Chong returns to the director’s chair with 'Project Gutenberg.'

By Elizabeth Kerr

Elizabeth Kerr

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'Project Gutenberg' ('Mouh seung'): Film Review

Chow Yun-fat channels some of his most iconic screen work as a suave, sophisticated, sharp-dressed gentleman criminal, and Aaron Kwok continues his mid-career creativity with another vaguely unsavory character in Felix Chong’s throwback crime thriller Project Gutenberg . Chong, best known as the writer of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, steps behind the camera for the first time since co-directing the last Overheard entry in 2014, but isn’t going to make anyone forget the gangster drama that reignited the genre.

Even still, bathed as it is in rough-hewn, desaturated browns and grays, anchored by a pair of solid action set pieces, structured cleverly enough to keep the tension simmering and blessed with a pair of endlessly appealing stars, Project Gutenberg should generate a fair amount of interest at home in Hong Kong. Audiences and distributors looking for the next great actioner from the SAR will also sit up and take notice, and it should find a place on the genre and Asian festival circuits.

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The story starts in the mid-1990s, with Hong Kong’s finest extraditing Lee Man (Kwok, still not aging) from a grimy Thai prison. Back at home, Lee is questioned about a ruthless and murderous counterfeiter, Painter, aka Ng Fuk-seng (Chow), who they’ve been chasing for some time. Lee is the only remaining survivor of his crew, and he’s utterly terrified of the elusive Painter. Lee refuses to talk, even after the police illegally gain some evidence against him, until an old flame, Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ), shows up with a lawyer and convinces Lee to tell the police what he knows. She wants to see Painter behind bars, too: He killed her fiancé.

Convinced his betrayal will bring Painter’s wrath down on him (the ethically questionable cops are counting on it), Lee agrees to talk because he’s still in love with Yuen, and thus begins the Usual Suspects -type interrogation-room flashback of Lee’s time with the gang. Lee was a failed artist living in Vancouver when Painter discovered his talent for mimicry and invited him onto the counterfeiting team aiming to create a U.S. “superdollar” so convincing it would make them, er, a mint. Losing his more artistically adept girlfriend Yuen to the bright lights of the art world — as well as to her agent — Lee figured he had nothing to lose and joined the crew. Naturally, the more retiring, wimpy, non-violent Lee found himself in over his head, finally landing in a Thai prison. Or did he?

To give away more details would mean revealing Project Gutenberg ’s more salient twists and turns, though sharp-eyed viewers steeped in crime dramas may see them coming a mile away. But Chong’s plot-heavy script has its share of pleasures, chiefly the opportunity for Chow to be more charmingly badass and threatening than he’s been in a long time (and clearly loving it). Chong and Chow are shameless in co-opting possibly the latter’s most famous single screen moment — lighting a cigarette with a burning fake greenback in A Better Tomorrow — and Kwok gets plenty of opportunity to tear it up as the insecure and browbeaten unreliable narrator, all while sporting a fabulously unfortunate mid-’90s hairdo.

However, if Chong is expecting lightning along the lines of Infernal Affairs to strike twice, he’s missed the mark. Project Gutenberg is a perfectly serviceable diversion, but it lacks the density and cat-and-mouse psychology of Affairs (never mind the post-’97 themes), largely because there’s no cat: Painter and Lee are meant to antagonize each other. The closest Painter and Lee get to a nemesis is Catherine Chau’s inspector Ho Wai-tam, who lost a partner to the counterfeiters. Chau has a couple of intriguing moments of moral ambiguity, but Chong never really dives into that gray area, and funding from China’s Bona Film Group ensures any of the murky morality that defined Hong Kong thrillers for so long will be minimal — or severely punished.

By the same token, the script has its moments, despite a slightly jarring flashback-within-a-flashback that muddies the second act for a few minutes. Among Project Gutenberg ’s high points are the highway ink robbery that draws the attention of the Canadian Federal Police (wait, who?) and inspires Ho’s ax-grinding, and a revenge-fueled shootout with a crime lord (Jack Kao) hiding in Thailand (and whose henchmen, of course, can’t hit the broad side of a barn). Chong is adept with his pacing, and rarely lets the generous running time get away from him.

A budget rumored to be in the $40 million range makes for strong technical specs, welcome location shooting and a strong supporting cast (Liu Kai-chi as a plate-making family man, Alex Fong as a police commander, Taiwanese veteran Kao) to complement cinematographer Jason Kwan’s meticulously washed-out images.

Production company: Pop Movies Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok, Zhang Jingchu, Catherine Chau, Joyce Feng, Liu Kai-chi, Alex Fong, Carl Ng, Jack Kao Director-screenwriter: Felix Chong Producer: Ronald Wong Executive producer: Yu Dong, Albert Yeung, Lu Yuan Director of photography: Jason Kwan Production designer: Eric Lam Costume designer: Man Lim-chung Editor: Curran Pang Music: Day Tai Sales: Distribution Workshop

In Cantonese and Putonghua  131 minutes

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Project Gutenberg (2018)

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Project Gutenberg - Movie Poster

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is a wanted counterfeiter who ends up in a Thai prison. Hong Kong's police eventually take over the case and try to extract information from him about the infamous counterfeiter-king Painter (Chow Yun-Fat). But Lee remains silent, because Painter is well-known for taking radical revenge on those who disclose any information about him. That's why the police are still completely in the dark when it comes to Painter. Eventually, Lee's former girlfriend Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu) turns up at the station and manages to convince him to tell the police everything he knows. Yuen and Lee used to live together and are both artists. While Yuen has her own original style and is in great demand, Lee only manages to copy other artists' works. Therefore, he is contacted to counterfeit a painting, which eventually falls into Painter's hands, who recognizes Lee's extraordinary skills. Painter meets up with Lee and puts him into his team. Painter is planning on counterfeiting the 100-dollar-bill. At first glance, an incredible venture, as it is almost impossible to get hold of the right printing machine as well as the right kind of ink. Moreover, there is the issue of the water mark. To solve this problem, Painter acts more and more reckless. But it is too late for Lee to bail...

Filmroll

Review: "Project Gutenberg" is probably Hong Kong's best action-thriller of the year - which doesn't mean that it is a masterpiece, though. The quality of Hong Kong's cinematic output has been decaying for years now. Nevertheless, director Felix Chong - along with his colleague Alan Mak - is responsible for a little movie called "Infernal Affairs" (having co-written the screenplay). After that there were some well-done action-thrillers here and there like "Overheard 2" , but there was nothing left of the original magic. Maybe Felix Chong has always been the strongest one of the two directors, because in his newest work you can recognize a hint of the ingeniousness from back in the day. He plays with the audience's perception, there are some gun fights in old-fashioned HK-style, which gets the adrenalin flowing, and all this with Chow Yun-Fat in the lead! Seriously, do you need anything more?

Project Gutenberg - Film Screenshot 5

The narrative perspective was chosen pretty interestingly, as we get to see the events through flashbacks. That's why you have to ask yourself, of course, whether Lee Man might have left out a part here and there to avoid being seen in a bad light. But Lee's insecure personality quickly turns him into a pitiful character for us. His relationship with his love interest Yuen Man, played by Zhang Jingchu ( "The Adventurers" ), goes to pieces because of his self-doubts, and so Lee finds himself in the hands of a criminal, who initially seemed to be a gentleman amongst villains. Until we get to see his more reckless side and there is no turning back anymore. "Project Gutenberg" manages to showcase the two protagonists' chemistry quite nicely, and even if Aaron Kwok masters his role very convincingly it is of course Chow Yun-Fat who steals the spotlight. At last, he gets an opportunity to play a role, which was tailor-made for him. Never mind that it is as the bad guy.

Project Gutenberg - Film Screenshot 7

The movie's themes are portrayed pretty obviously, though. At what point do you finally cross the line towards evil, how far would you go to stay true to your principles, but most of all: How far would you go for love? Yes, in the end - and that is what Painter already anticipated at the beginning - people are able to accomplish big things if they do it for love. In Lee's case, that means counterfeiting money. However, the movie doesn't turn into a romantic flick at the end. Instead, there is a twist, which makes us see the events in a completely different light. That is entertaining and at least somehow more intelligent than most productions we get from Hong Kong. One point of criticism to mention, though, is the fact that "Project Gutenberg" isn't really subtle when it comes to its resolution or the motives portrayed. But these kinds of problems are balanced out by Felix Chong's confident direction and the movie's two leads, especially Chow.

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Project gutenberg.

2018 ‘無雙’ Directed by Felix Chong

The Hong Kong police is hunting a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind code-named "Painter" . The gang possesses exceptional counterfeiting skills which makes it difficult to distinguish the authenticity of its counterfeit currency. The scope of their criminal activities extends globally and greatly attracts the attention of the police. In order to crack the true identity of "Painter", the police recruits a painter named Lee Man to assist in solving the case.

Chow Yun-fat Aaron Kwok Zhang Jingchu Joyce Feng Liu Kai-Chi Catherine Chau David Wang Paulyn Sun Deon Cheung Justin Cheung Carl Ng Alex Fong Chung-Sun Jack Kao Xing Jiadong Leung Kin-Ping Felix Lok Ying-Kwan Ka-Wah Lam

Director Director

Felix Chong

Assistant Director Asst. Director

Producers producers.

Ronald Wong Ban Costa Vassos Ellen Chang

Writer Writer

Editor editor.

Curran Pang

Cinematography Cinematography

Camera operators camera operators.

Tyler Meehan Nathan Wong Alexei Berteig

Art Direction Art Direction

Set decoration set decoration, composer composer, makeup makeup, hairstyling hairstyling.

Miranda Upton

Emperor Motion Pictures Bona Film Group Shanghai Bona Alibaba Pictures Group A Really Happy Film Distribution Workshop Pearl River Film Studio Huaxia Film Distribution

China Hong Kong

Primary Language

Spoken languages.

Polish Chinese Thai English Cantonese

Releases by Date

30 sep 2018, 04 oct 2018, 05 oct 2018, 31 oct 2018, releases by country.

  • Theatrical IIB

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Popular reviews

Invincible Asia

Review by Invincible Asia ★★★½

Project Gutenberg has a few flaws, like a running time that could have been trimmed a little bit and also a plot that is certainly complex and convoluted for convoluted complexity's sake, but what it has going for it is a good cast led by a 63 (!) year old Chow Yun-Fat who shows that even just his little finger alone still oozes more charisma and cool than any other living and working actor.

This is bound to be entertaining and fun for anyone with an appreciation for the man and classic Hong Kong cinema. If you're in it for the ride, you'll have fun. If you're expecting something more serious, you're bound to be a bit underwhelmed though. Alas, Chow Yun-Fat having a blast in an entertaining film is all I wanted from this, so follow my footsteps and you'll be fine.

AThousandSons

Review by AThousandSons ★★ 2

Take plot points from A Better Tomorrow, A Bullet in the Head, and The Killer, throw away the action and color, then add a bit of Fight Club at the end. You're left with thin gruel and this movie.

BlakeTourville

Review by BlakeTourville ★★★½

My father once said, "A man who can give up love will fail at everything he does ."

Felix Chong Man-keung uses Chow Yun-fat's godlike screen persona, and presence as a total red herring, and I kind of adore that choice. The movie as a whole is too long for what amounts to a dull, convoluted mess...but how can I hate it when it stars the sexiest, coolest man alive? Mr. Fat was in his 60s in this movie, and has never looked sexier, not even kidding. There's a lot to like in this if you love Chow Yun-fat like me, and I would gladly watch it again just for him, but overall it's a pretty dull movie outside of that.

Simon Lang

Review by Simon Lang ★★★½

Despite its flaws in the plot and some pacing issues during the first hour, PROJECT GUTENBERG is as entertaining as it is unpredictable (at least it was for me). It put a big smile on my face to see Chow Yun-Fat back in "heroic bloodshed mode". The highlight in this regard is doubtless the action set piece in the military camp. Chow is taking down baddies with pistols, assault rifles, and a shotgun, while flying through the air in slo-mo like it is 1992. Sadly, some of the CGI (explosions) are, once again, a letdown. It's nevertheless one of the better Hong Kong produced crime/action flicks I have seen in recent memory.

Sean Gilman

Review by Sean Gilman ★★½ 4

Increasingly tired of Felix Chong's schtick: super-serious crime melodramas with little character and no humor, slick, superficial, glacially dull productions, Hong Kong elephant art. This one has a twist you can see coming a mile away, if only because nothing else in the movie makes the least bit of sense without it.

It's fun to see Chow Yun-fat waving a pair of handguns around, but that kind of joy only gets you so far. And Chong is far too literal-minded to really relish it anyway.

But at least it isn't as bad as the last couple of Overheard movies, I guess.

Ed Küpfer

Review by Ed Küpfer ★★½ 3

Crime drama about about a failed artist who leaves his successful artist girlfriend to join a currency counterfeiting ring. Aaron Kwok plays the sometimes cowed, sometimes forceful artist, Chow Yun-fat plays the ruthless leader of the group—but things aren't always as they seem, as befits a movie about counterfeiters. It's all mood and melodrama and one action scene which explicitly harkens back to Chow Yun-fat's heroically bloodsheddy past, the highlight of the movie.

Every review of this movie is required to mention the terrible ending. So consider it mentioned.

ribcage

Review by ribcage ★★★

Grim, sad-faced Aaron Kwok is captured flunky Lee Man, telling the tale of his involvement with infamous counterfeiter The Painter (Chow Yun-Fat) in a thriller that gets by but leaves little lasting impression.

It's fine enough in the moment, especially if you're watching it on an airplane like I did. Chow gives a bursting at the seams performance like he's trying to break free from the lower energy of this movie into something more bombastic...at least he's having fun and he steals the show. Kwok is appropriately low energy and wistful so no fault to him for matching the overall energy..

I wasn't quite sure where any of it was going until about halfway through suddenly you KNOW. It "borrows"…

Matt Malpica Reifschneider

Review by Matt Malpica Reifschneider ★★★

As much as I wanted to love Project Gutenberg, as an ambitious crime thriller that brings Chow Yun Fat back to my childhood love of him as a true and bold action star - even if he is ultimately a villain, this film ran cold for me. The first half of the film is something of a slog and just when it starts to pick up and get interesting, it decides it needs to punch it's audience in the face with a LOT of twists in the final 20 minutes. It gets a bit of bonus heft for its ambitiousness of narrative which does pull out the rug a few times, but this might end up being one of the lesser films from director Felix Chong. Although, I am curious to re-watch it since I know how it plays out to see if I like it more or less.

Filipe Furtado

Review by Filipe Furtado ★★★

Felix Chong doing De Palma doing Vertigo, Starts like an usual subdued Chong thriller very written with a lot of talk about art and capítal and the role of forging linking them and at some point starts to go nuts. Chow Yun Fat gets to hold two guns in the middle of a violent shootout so this really delivers on the 80s HK thriller nostalgia factor. Overall, best use of Chow in a movie since Let the Bullets Fly, he is an image, the essence of cool, the seductive surface that tells you crime and violence are ok because he waers it so well. There's a twist lift straight from a well-known 90s movie that doesn't quite work because one can see it coming (it does fit the themes here far better than the source) and Aaron Kwok isn't as animated as one might hope as the forger Chow recruits to his create his fake dollar bills.

Alex Holmes

Review by Alex Holmes ★★★½

Despite the weird English title (loosley the Chinese one is "Irreplaceable") Project Gutenberg is a fun Hong Kong crime caper that features a typically charismatic and magnetic performance from Chow Yun-Fat.

The basic plot follows a down on his luck painter Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) who falls in with a bunch of counterfeiters led by the enigmatic and charismatic Painter (Chow Yun-Fat). Featuring double crosses, twists, themes of identity, and yes - Chow Yun-Fat shooting two guns - Project Gutenberg is often highly entertaining, especially when Chow is on screen (I heard an audible clap from the audience at one extremely bad ass Chow moment). The rest of the cast do nicely as well, Kwok putting in a turn that…

Wonggifs

Review by Wonggifs ★★★

Extremely silly, but it's slickly made, and it's always a pleasure to see Chow Yun Fat do his thing. Aaron Kwok feels miscast, but then he usually does.

There's the germ of a really great thriller here, before twist piles upon baffling twist until the whole thing feels about as empty as one of the fake paintings that Kwok's character specialises in. Ironic too that a film about counterfeiting copies so shamelessly from Hong Kong cinema classics of the past.

Worth watching, if only for Chow's billion dollar charisma throughout, and one excellent action set piece that is so ridiculous that it feels like it belongs in a different movie.

stairmaster

Review by stairmaster ★★★★ 1

It's really cool when chow yunfat kills people but why's it called project guttenberg

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Movie review: Thriller Project Gutenberg plays with fans' perceptions of Chow Yun Fat and Aaron Kwok

project gutenberg movie review

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

PROJECT GUTENBERG (PG13)

130 minutes/Opens Oct 4/2.5 stars

The story: Skilled forger Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is languishing in a Thai jail when he gets picked up by the Hong Kong police. Famous painter Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu) offers to bail him out, but in exchange, the police want him to spill the beans on the mysterious Painter (Chow Yun Fat), the mastermind of a major US dollar counterfeiting operation.

Hong Kong's Felix Chong is celebrated for crime thrillers, often made in collaboration with Alan Mak. They include the acclaimed Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002 to 2003) and the surveillance series Overheard (2009 to 2014).

Chong goes it alone here and double-hats as writer and director. But perhaps he has overstretched himself.

It is clear though that he has done his homework. We get very detailed exposition on how to counterfeit greenbacks, some of it set to soothing classical music.

It is almost like a documentary, one complete with loving close-ups of hidden details on the hundred-dollar bill. The end goal is perfecting a home-made version of the note launched in 1996, so we watch in fascination as Painter and gang solve one problem after another: How to get the watermark just right? Where to get the intaglio press? How to get hold of a very specific kind of starch-free paper? And the metallic colour-shifting ink?

One wonders what the United States Treasury makes of the film.

The casting here plays into, and with, the expectations audiences usually have of the lead actors.

Chow is in his element as the charming well-heeled sophisticate, but here, he has a mercurial temper, going from cheerful to homicidal on the turn of a dime. Kwok, often seen as the macho hero, is snivelling and cowering half the time. The two were last seen together in the crime thriller Cold War 2 (2016), but this time, they are in each other's faces a lot more.

One bugbear about the dialogue is that Chong seems hung up on this metaphor about leading men and supporting players, one that is repeated several times to jarring effect.

Ultimately, how you feel about Project Gutenberg depends very much on whether you have watched this other film. To say which film it is though, would be to give away the ending here.

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Project Gutenberg (2018) Review

“Project Gutenberg” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Felix Chong Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok, Zhang Jung-Chu, Joyce Feng, Catherine Chow, Alex Fong, Liu Kai-chi, Yao-Qing Wang, Alien Sun, Carl Ng, Leung Kin-Ping Running Time: 130 min.

By Paul Bramhall

When a trailer gets released for a movie, it has one job – to make people want to come and see it. Most trailers do that through editing together some of the key moments in order to grab the viewer’s interest, and make them want to see more. But sometimes, trailers don’t play by the rules .Such is the case for Project Gutenberg , which featured a trailer proudly teasing a scene of Chow Yun Fat lighting a dollar note on fire, recreating the famous moment from the seminal A Better Tomorrow . While the 1986 classic was the movie responsible for putting Chow on the map, and credited as creating the Heroic Bloodshed genre, Project Gutenberg is a production being made in a very different era. So different in fact, that it’s now deemed acceptable to swindle your audience, as director and writer Felix Chong later admitted the scene had been filmed especially for the trailer, and is nowhere to be found in the movie itself.

The title, so called after Johannes Gutenberg, the German who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press in the 15th century, is director and writer Felix Chong’s first attempt at directing solo. Usually paired with Alan Mak, together they wrote and co-directed the likes of The Overheard series, and perhaps most famously wrote the Infernal Affairs trilogy together (which Mak co-directed with Andrew Lau). Most recently Chong penned the script for the excellent Extraordinary Mission (which Mak co-directed with Fletcher Poon), so Project Gutenberg marks the first time to truly strike out on his own in the capacity of both director and writer, and brings with him some major Hong Kong talent in front of the camera.

Chow Yun Fat marks his first time to star in a movie which isn’t a sequel since Johnnie To’s 2015 musical Office , and as always it’s a pleasure to see him onscreen. He plays the mysterious ‘Painter’, the leader of a counterfeit currency operation, who takes an interest in the forgery skills of a lowly artist struggling to make ends meet in Canada, played by his Cold War 2 co-star Aaron Kwok. While Chow gets to stretch his rarely used villainous acting chops (2006’s Curse of the Golden Flower feels like a lifetime ago), Kwok appears to be channelling Louis Koo’s performance in 2013’s Drug War . I like Kwok, but he needs a good director to guide his performance, one that can reign in his legendary tendencies to overact. Chong for the large part keeps him in check, with his sullen demeanour only occasionally offset by his jitterbug reactions to the violence he has to witness, in which you can almost feel the effort he’s putting in to restrain himself.

While the performances may be commendable, the pacing is less so. Taking place in the 1990’s, Project Gutenberg’s narrative is told using the same framework utilised in the likes of The Usual Suspects . Kwok, who we meet being transferred from a Thai prison to Hong Kong, tells his story from the interrogation room in flashback. His arrest is seen as a major breakthrough for the father and daughter cop team of Alex Fong ( Angels 2 ) and Catherine Chow ( Husband Killers ), and they leverage his ex-lover (Zhang Jung-Chu, The Adventurers ) to make him start talking about his relationship with the Painter, who no one has ever seen. While Kwok’s own art may not have made the cut, his talent for imitation soon sees him responsible for creating the ‘superdollar’ – the ultimate counterfeit $100 bill – and it’s this process which sees the pace come to a grinding halt.

The main issue is that Fong spends so much time dedicated to Chow and Kwok figuring out how to create the perfect counterfeit, it almost begins to feel like a documentary on true crime. There’s no real threat to keep the suspense simmering, it’s not clear what the end game is (apart from, well, making the perfect counterfeit), and none of the characters have a particularly engaging motive for doing what they do. Instead, an inordinate amount of time is spent watching shots involving paper and ink, set to a mildly exciting score, as if this is considered to be sufficient to keep the audience’s attention. It’s kind of like if A Better Tomorrow was 30 minutes longer, with a bunch of additional scenes detailing the counterfeit process, before Chow and Ti Lung get to their iconic dollar burning scene together. While the level of research Chong’s done is admirable, every last detail of it didn’t necessarily need to make it to the screen.

The biggest elephant in the room with Project Gutenberg though, is also its biggest asset – Chow Yun Fat. To put it bluntly, he’s miscast, the irony being that it appears to be a character written specifically for him. On paper his role is one of a ruthless villain driven by greed and little else, however onscreen, there’s a burden to recall his days of being the Heroic Bloodshed genres most iconic thespian. There are three shootouts, and two of them feature Chow front and center, however it’s only the one where he has the least involvement that feels like a natural part of the narrative. The first one literally starts in the middle of a road with zero build-up, and finishes with Chow brandishing a handgun in each fist. I’m sure it’s supposed to be a crowd cheering moment, however onscreen it comes across as a gratuitous and unnecessary piece of fan service. Like the scene in the trailer, it would have been better to leave it out altogether.

Then there’s an awkwardly inserted flashback within a flashback, which almost feels as if came from another movie entirely. Decked out in a white suit, and laying on the charm that’s made him such a legend of HK cinema, Chow and his cohorts visit a general in the Golden Triangle (do characters in HK movies ever go to there for any other reason!?) to negotiate a deal. However there’s a side motive – the General is also the one responsible for the death of Chow’s father. Cue a completely over the top action scene, which has Chow brandishing an assault rifle in each hand like a one-man army, and even throws in the patented flying through the air while shooting at the same time shot (only performed with wires, he is 63 after all). Again, it’s a scene in which you feel obliged to be excited because, well, it’s Chow Yun Fat shooting people. But it’s so disconnected from the actual plot, it becomes impossible to connect to as an audience.

It also has to be pointed out that Hong Kong cinema hasn’t improved much in portraying Canada since the likes of Return Engagement and Women on the Run (ok, admittedly there’s no thugs playing soccer with a puppy here). It’s ironic that the best English line delivery comes from its Asian cast, in the form of David Wang ( Wine War ) and Carl Ng ( Operation Mekong ), with the delivery and lines attributed to the ‘Canadian’ cops best described as an assault on the ears. You would think that if the budget allowed for a whole village to be rigged to explode in spectacular fashion, it could also stretch to hiring a gweilo actor that could enunciate their single line of dialogue correctly.

Project Gutenberg opts for a big twist in its final reel, not all of which is completely believable. I have a theory that Chong had probably watched Kwok in 2009’s Murderer , and figured if they got away with what they did there, then even the wildest twist they could come up with can only pale in comparison. He’s partly correct. However even the big twist can’t escape the newly re-branded NRTA (formerly known as SARFT – China’s censorship board for media). With an even more stringent set of regulations of what is and isn’t considered acceptable to be shown introduced in 2018, the closing moments resort to a generic, safe, and entirely predicable conclusion. The kind which make you let out an audible groan, combined with an involuntary rolling of the eyes.

It’s something we can expect to see more of moving forward, as the more a story focuses on criminals and moral ambiguity, the more the ending will need to emphasise that they all got punished accordingly. Project Gutenberg ticks those boxes like it should, but with such predictability making these tales a foregone conclusion, the real punishment is inflicted on the audiences that watch them.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 5/10

10 Responses to Project Gutenberg (2018) Review

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Even though I liked about 70% of the movie, I agree with the review.

It is true that the movie spent more time detailing the counterfeit process, and along with a documentary, I almost felt like those portions were high quality commercial/power point presentatios glorifying it! (They got me hooked since even though I’m not interested in the subject, I thought the scenes were engaging)

I will admit that the action scenes were there as fan service, but I liked them. I’m probably the one simpleton who would have reacted the way the producers were expecting audiences to in theatres. To see Chow Yun Fat with pistols and machine guns in each hand in a sequence that looked like a combination of A Better Tomorrow 3 and Supercop got me going.

Even with the PlayStation 2 styled explosions, and a reanimated severed arm, I thought Nicky Li put together a decent shootout. Although the movie would have benefited from a more grounded and dramatic approach like the last shooting.

Maybe it was unnecessary to portray Chow as a villain with action hero dynamics, but I accepted them just because the role fit him like a glove. I’m sure even if he was portraying a receptionist in another movie, there’d still be an excuse to have him dominating everyone.

Chow also had great lines such as “Those who see the world in black or white are doomed to be failures” or “I’m fine. THIS guy’s screwed!”

I think the movie is more enjoyable if you pretend that the hour and 43 minute mark is the real ending. Everything after that felt like a “gotcha” moment by an asshole. As much as I don’t like SARFT/NRTA, I was looking forward to them punishing the proper people after the bullshit that was pulled. I was so upset, that I completely forgot that the burning dollar scene wasn’t in the film.

Although ironically, the ending seems to make Chow into not such a bad guy after all! Was that also an NRTA intervention?

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Great to hear an alternative perspective as always Mr. H! I know others enjoyed it much more than I did, and clearly it did something right to garner 17 nominations at this years Hong Kong Film Awards (although there’s admittedly not much competition), but for me it fell short. Wong Jing did a much better job (a rarely written line I’m sure) of incorporating CYF’s heroic bloodshed screen persona into a more dramatic story with 2012’s ‘The Last Tycoon’, which is one of his best performances post-2010.

“Those who see the world in black or white are doomed to be failures”

I thought this was a great line as well, and wasn’t sure if Chong was aiming for irony, considering the NRTA basically dictates that any crime movie China produces needs to be black and white.

“I think the movie is more enjoyable if you pretend that the hour and 43 minute mark is the real ending. Everything after that felt like a “gotcha” moment by an asshole.”

That last line made me laugh out loud!

“Although ironically, the ending seems to make Chow into not such a bad guy after all! Was that also an NRTA intervention?”

My opinion is that this was more down to Chong’s muddled script, that realised it also had to find a way to explain where his character came from in the wider narrative, and that was the best he could come up with.

PS No way are you a simpleton! In fact your comment has me reaching for my DVD of ‘A Better Tomorrow 3’ for a rewatch, a sequel which I’ve always considered massively underrated!

Thanks a bunch. I actually bought Last Tycoon and Let The Bullets Fly a while ago, but I’ve been too unorganized to watch them yet.

17 nominations? I certainly didn’t like the movie THAT much! The movie did focus so much on the counterfeiting business, that it sidelined several characters. The relationship with Aaron Kwok and Joyce Feng (?) seemed to come out of nowhere, and his friendship with Uncle Ng was more developed.

I feel like other people are overlooking how the movie turned into The Usual Suspects directed by 10 different M Night Shyamalans, and that really hurt the movie when it didn’t need any plot twists.

Maybe I’m overreaching with Chow’s plot twist at the end, but it seems to protect the actor’s image so that audiences don’t associate him with being evil in an NRTA China.

I like the idea of some of the movie’s lines being shots at NRTA. If they do see things in black and white, then they are stupid enough for them to go over their heads.

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Sounds more like Project Not-very Gutenberg.

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There is one chain over here that shows most Hong Kong films (80% or so that are released) and I usually end up watching most of them on release – this was rubbish. I was expecting the equivalent to Hardboiled 2 but instead got a weepy bland drama. This was the biggest joint disappointment along with the equally rubbish Better Tomorrow 2018.

Its not complicated to bring back heroic bloodshed complete with actual squibs and actual full power blanks.

Hard-Boiled 2? That’s a major setup for disappointment.

It’s not impossible to make a movie as good as Woo’s, but it’s important to keep our expectations in check. I’ll be surprised if Chow Yun-Fat does another gun toting movie considering how old he is. It would have to happen right now.

' src=

An Asian movie? Let’s say it’s very average or crap. A New movie with Scott ? Let’s sax it’s another great movie! So easy to write reviews on cityonfire… By the way, Triple threat is a VERY AVERAG DTV, but I’m not paid to write it.

Asian movie reviews – Extraordinary Mission (2017) – 8.5/10 The Truth Beneath (2016) – 8.5/10 I Am a Hero (2015) – 8.5/10

Scott Adkins movie reviews – Incoming (2018) – 4/10 Hard Target 2 (2016) – 5/10 Wolf Warrior (2015) – 4.5/10

Or to put it in more simple terms, 3 movies which we thoroughly enjoyed, and 3 movies which we thought were mediocre.

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the twists were too much.

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SPOILER ALERT

I think I would have appreciated the script better, if every flashback could have been true, except with a different number of people in them 😉

But, since the the flashbacks to the time and place when and where Kwok met Chow apparently couldn’t be true, then I am left with the question of what else of the flashbacks didn’t actually take place.

Which thus leaves me confused.

I just wish the flashbacks were airtight.

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Project Gutenberg

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Project Gutenberg

Time Out says

Despite star names, the biggest Hong Kong movie of the year displays a disappointing lack of originality

Hong Kong cinema used to be famous for its originality. Nowhere made a comedy like one of Stephen Chow’s mo lei tau movies or produced films with the distinct visual style of Wong Kar-wai. Even those local elements that didn’t find favour with international critics, such as the jarring genre hopping or the rapid-fire editing, were nonetheless hallmarks of a particular Hong Kong cinematic style. What makes Project Gutenberg so disappointing is how much it borrows from Hollywood. The film’s big twist, and even its initial setup is borrowed from a certain movie that shall remain nameless, in order to avoid spoilers. That lack of originality is sad for a Hong Kong film that boasts the talents of Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok and director Felix Chong, the writer of Infernal Affairs. The action begins with Lee Man (Kwok), a counterfeit artist, incarcerated in a Thai jail. He’s soon hauled out and bundled on a plane to Hong Kong to assist with an investigation looking to nail Painter (Chow), the mysterious head of a counterfeit banknote organisation of which Lee was formerly a member. With no leads and little information on Painter, the police interrogate Lee, who recounts how he met Painter and the illegal activities that followed. All the way through, there’s a nagging suspicion that this is the kind of movie that Hollywood would do better. The intricacies of crime are never explained as smoothly as, say, American Gangster ; the globetrotting is never as lavish as in the Mission Impossible franchise; the plot twist isn’t as stunning as its inspiration; even the action – which Hong Kong used to excel at – isn’t as exciting as John Wick. Sure, Hollywood budgets are huge, but Hong Kong used to be able to do more with less. After all, who really thinks The Departed is better than the director’s own Infernal Affairs ? The film isn’t helped by a bloated 131-minute runtime and pacing that takes some time to reach full speed. At one stage early on in his interrogation, as Lee recounts his days as a struggling artist, one character snaps, “I’m not interested in this, move on.” Clearly, the filmmakers should have taken their own advice. Thankfully, the acting is excellent. Kwok excels as a jumpy artist out of his depth in the criminal underworld, even if, for much of the film, one wonders what he’s doing there. Chow too is on typically fine form – suave as only he can be, and when he brings out twin handguns to despatch an army of onrushing enemies, it’s a high point. Perhaps in a film centred around counterfeiting the notion of one film borrowing heavily from others shouldn’t be an issue. Yet there’s a difference between appreciation and imitation. Lost in Translation may have sought to ape the mood of a Wong Kar-wai flick but it didn’t lift plot elements wholesale. Nowhere is this lack of originality more obvious than in a promotional image for Project Gutenberg that, wisely, isn’t in the film. A direct copy of one of Chow’s most famous scenes , it shows the actor lighting a cigarette with a US$100 note, just like his character did more than 30 years ago in A Better Tomorrow. Although dialogue in Project Gutenberg makes the claim that a fake can sometimes surpass the original, that’s not true of this copycat.

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  • Director: Felix Chong
  • Chow Yun Fat

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project gutenberg movie review

Asian Film Strike

Project gutenberg (2018) review.

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Project Gutenberg is Felix Chong’s second solo project – that is, away from Alan Mak – after the underrated triad comedy Once a Gangster nine years ago. It follows Lee Man (Aaron Kwok), a painter of mediocre inspiration who discovers that he’s peerless at copying works of art. Soon, he’s hired by Ng Fuk Sang (Chow Yun Fat), aka Painter, the charismatic and ruthless head of a money-counterfeiting gang. Lee quickly becomes an invaluable part of the gang, and though he’s repelled by Painter’s violent ways, he sticks around in the hopes that the rewards showered upon him by the leader, will help him win back the love of his old flame Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu), a now successful artist. At the same time, the counterfeiting gang is in the crosshairs of Inspector Ho (Catherine Chow) and her team.

Project Gutenberg  wants to be a few things at the same time, and often succeeds. As an examination of money counterfeiting it’s gripping: going into fascinating detail on the tricks of the trade, with considerations of paper texture, ink color, patterns, watermarks, printing machines, and how to determine and procure all these things. Whether or not it’s true to life, it makes for a fresh and engrossing watch. There’s a few action scenes peppered throughout: a passable armored van ambush, a tight and impactful hotel room shootout, and more memorably, an extravagant bit of heroic bloodshed in a Thai paramilitary compound, as Chow Yun Fat and his team mow down dozens of mercenaries. With the great Li Chung Chi directing the action, the whole scene is gratuitous yet unabashed pleasure.

As a Hong Kong-style twisty thriller though, Project Gutenberg isn’t as satisfying. Its non-linear structure – most of the film is a long flashback, as Kwok’s character makes a confession to the police – is engaging, but only up to the point when we realize that these flashbacks are unreliable. And while that feeds into the film’s rumination on the toll of forgery (in money-making as in life in general), it also makes the big last-reel twists particularly underwhelming; a plot twist is only truly effective when the audience has been fooling itself to some extent, not when it’s been simply lied to. Still, papering over these shortcomings is the radiant presence of Chow Yun Fat, in a role both meaty and elusive, that serves up fan service – the A Better Tomorrow shot, glimpsed in the trailer, where he lights a cigarette with a counterfeit banknote, is not included in the film, but we still see him wielding dual Berettas – while subverting expectations: though we want to love him because he has Chow’s million-dollar smile, Painter is a deeply ambiguous and brutal man, perhaps the darkest character he’s played.

Aaron Kwok, in the more thankless role, nevertheless near matches Chow: their characters are Yin and Yang, an assured rogue and a principled wuss, and it’s a joy to watch them interact. Around them, there’s classy support from Zhang Jingchu as the emotional center of the story, and it’s good to see Liu Kai Chi give a rare understated and highly-effective turn as a member of the gang who befriends Kwok’s character. Joyce Feng shows promise in a role we can’t discuss without spoilers, but poor Alex Fong dies a bit more inside with another bland superior officer character. Jason Kwan’s cinematography goes a bit heavy on the ‘banknote-green’ hues, but Day Tai’s score is quite stylish.

Long Story Short: Project Gutenberg is a spectacular and often engrossing crime thriller, not always as smart as it thinks it is, but powered by Chow Yun Fat’s irrepressible charisma. ***1/3

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Posted by LP Hugo on August 2, 2019

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Not that you need me to tell you, but this a great review and not just because I completely agree with it. By the time you get to a certain bail out the twist is not so much a twist but a confirmation, but I enjoyed how it unfolded. The look on CYF’s face as you find out what’s happened the same time as he does is magic. It would have been easy for Aaron Kwok to get forgotten when you’ve got such an amazing CYF performance going on, but I find he gets better and better with each proper serious movie he does. I’d go for 4/5 but I’m biased towards an Aaron Kwok movie that doesn’t suck. :)

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Thank you! And yes, age becomes Aaron Kwok; in the same role 15 years ago he would have been insufferable.

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Project Gutenberg

Watch Project Gutenberg

  • 6.8   (4,985)

Project Gutenberg is a 2018 thriller movie that brought together some of the most recognized names in the Hong Kong movie industry. Directed by Felix Chong, Project Gutenberg tells the story of a counterfeiting gang that operates between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Chow Yun-Fat plays the role of Lee Man, the leader of the counterfeiting ring. Lee Man is a mysterious man whose face is always hidden behind a mask, making it challenging for the authorities to capture him. Aaron Kwok, on the other hand, plays the role of the Inspector Ho, who is a police officer tasked with bringing down the gang. As the story unfolds, we learn more about the two main characters and their motivations.

In the opening scene of the movie, we see Lee Man negotiating a deal with a wealthy Chinese businessman. The businessman wants to buy a counterfeit painting, and Lee Man is more than happy to oblige. However, things take a turn for the worse when the businessman discovers the painting is fake and demands his money back. Lee Man refuses to give back the money and kills the businessman, leaving behind a bloody message that reads: "A bad deal."

Meanwhile, Inspector Ho is investigating the murder of an undercover police officer, who was killed by the same gang. Determined to bring the gang to justice, Inspector Ho teams up with a female special agent, played by Jingchu Zhang.

As the investigation progresses, the police discover that the counterfeiting ring is much more extensive than they initially thought. The gang uses high-tech equipment to produce counterfeit banknotes that are virtually indistinguishable from real ones. To make matters worse, they also have ties to some of the most powerful people in Mainland China, making it challenging for the police to stop them.

Throughout the movie, we see a game of cat and mouse between Lee Man and Inspector Ho. Each time Inspector Ho gets close to capturing Lee Man, he manages to escape. As the two characters clash, we learn more about their backgrounds and motivations.

Chow Yun-Fat delivers an excellent performance as Lee Man, capturing the character's dark and complex personality. Aaron Kwok is equally impressive as Inspector Ho, and the chemistry between the two actors is fantastic. Jingchu Zhang also shines in her role as the special agent, providing some much-needed comic relief.

One of the highlights of the movie is the use of technology. The gang uses state-of-the-art equipment to produce their counterfeit banknotes, and the police use advanced forensic techniques to track them down. The movie also features some impressive action scenes, including a thrilling motorcycle chase and a shootout in a crowded marketplace.

Overall, Project Gutenberg is a well-crafted movie that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The performances by the main actors, the use of technology, and the suspenseful storyline make it a must-watch for fans of the thriller genre.

Project Gutenberg is a 2018 action movie with a runtime of 129 hours. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8.

Project Gutenberg

  • Genres Action Crime Mystery Thriller
  • Cast Chow Yun-Fat Aaron Kwok Jingchu Zhang
  • Director Felix Chong
  • Release Date 2018
  • Runtime 129 hr
  • IMDB Rating 6.8   (4,985)

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Project Gutenberg (2018)

Original title: 無雙.

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Where does Project Gutenberg rank today? The JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity within the last 24 hours. This includes clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as 'seen'. This includes data from ~1.3 million movie & TV show fans per day.

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Project Gutenberg is 10817 on the JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts today. The movie has moved up the charts by 7662 places since yesterday. In the United States, it is currently more popular than Bajirao Mastani but less popular than Wings Over Everest.

The Hong Kong police is hunting a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind code-named "Painter" . The gang possesses exceptional counterfeiting skills which makes it difficult to distinguish the authenticity of its counterfeit currency. The scope of their criminal activities extends globally and greatly attracts the attention of the police. In order to crack the true identity of "Painter", the police recruits a painter named Lee Man to assist in solving the case.

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  3. Project Gutenberg/無雙 Movie Review

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COMMENTS

  1. Project Gutenberg (Mo Seung)

    Project Gutenberg (Mo Seung) 2018. 83%. Tomatometer 6 Reviews. 75%. Audience Score 50+ Ratings. Want to see. Your AMC Ticket Confirmation# can be found in your order confirmation email.

  2. 'Project Gutenberg' ('Mouh seung'): Film Review

    To give away more details would mean revealing Project Gutenberg 's more salient twists and turns, though sharp-eyed viewers steeped in crime dramas may see them coming a mile away. But Chong ...

  3. Project Gutenberg (film)

    Project Gutenberg (Chinese: 無雙; also released as The Counterfeiter in the United Kingdom) is a 2018 Hong Kong-Chinese action film written and directed by Felix Chong, and starring Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok.. Filming began on 15 May 2017 and the film was theatrically released on 30 September 2018 in China and on 4 October 2018 in Hong Kong.. Project Gutenberg was a critical and ...

  4. Project Gutenberg (2018)

    Project Gutenberg: Directed by Felix Chong. With Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, Jingchu Zhang, Catherine Chau. Hong Kong police are hunting a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind code-named "Painter". In order to crack this true identity, the police recruit gang member Lee Man to unmask "Painter's" secret identity.

  5. Project Gutenberg (2018)

    8/10. A Smart Adaptation. DawsonChu 1 October 2018. Obviously, the basic structure of the whole story comes from Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects" in 1995, but the focus of the former is the shock when the puzzle was revealed. The focus of this film is to expose the characters.

  6. Project Gutenberg

    Where to watch Project Gutenberg Rent/buy Subscription. Watch Project Gutenberg with a subscription on Amazon Prime Video, rent on Vudu, or buy on Vudu. Rate And Review. Submit review.

  7. Project Gutenberg (Hong Kong, 2018)

    Review: "Project Gutenberg" is probably Hong Kong's best action-thriller of the year - which doesn't mean that it is a masterpiece, though.The quality of Hong Kong's cinematic output has been decaying for years now. Nevertheless, director Felix Chong - along with his colleague Alan Mak - is responsible for a little movie called "Infernal Affairs" (having co-written the screenplay).

  8. Project Gutenberg film review: Aaron Kwok, Chow Yun-fat face off in

    Review | Project Gutenberg film review: Aaron Kwok, Chow Yun-fat face off in twisty crime thriller. Felix Chong directs a convoluted story about a counterfeit-money gang that morphs from crime ...

  9. ‎Project Gutenberg (2018) directed by Felix Chong • Reviews, film

    Project Gutenberg has a few flaws, like a running time that could have been trimmed a little bit and also a plot that is certainly complex and convoluted for convoluted complexity's sake, but what it has going for it is a good cast led by a 63 (!) year old Chow Yun-Fat who shows that even just his little finger alone still oozes more charisma and cool than any other living and working actor.

  10. Movie review: Thriller Project Gutenberg plays with fans' perceptions

    REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER. PROJECT GUTENBERG (PG13) 130 minutes/Opens Oct 4/2.5 stars. The story: Skilled forger Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is languishing in a Thai jail when he gets picked up by the Hong ...

  11. Project Gutenberg (2018) Review

    While the 1986 classic was the movie responsible for putting Chow on the map, and credited as creating the Heroic Bloodshed genre, Project Gutenberg is a production being made in a very different era. So different in fact, that it's now deemed acceptable to swindle your audience, as director and writer Felix Chong later admitted the scene had ...

  12. Project Gutenberg

    Rotten Tomatoes, home of the Tomatometer, is the most trusted measurement of quality for Movies & TV. The definitive site for Reviews, Trailers, Showtimes, and Tickets ... Project Gutenberg Reviews

  13. Project Gutenberg , directed by Felix Chong

    The film isn't helped by a bloated 131-minute runtime and pacing that takes some time to reach full speed. At one stage early on in his interrogation, as Lee recounts his days as a struggling ...

  14. PROJECT GUTENBERG (2018) review

    Project Gutenberg is Felix Chong's second solo project - that is, away from Alan Mak - after the underrated triad comedy Once a Gangster nine years ago. ... Posted in Film Reviews. Tagged aaron kwok, alex fong chung sun, chow yun fat, felix chong, joyce feng, liu kai chi, nicky li chung chi, zhang jingchu. Posted by LP Hugo on August 2, 2019.

  15. Project Gutenberg

    "Project Gutenberg" is a 2018 Hong Kong movie that was directed by Felix Chong. A cowardly and struggling artist-turned-criminal named Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is extradited from a prison in Thailand to Hong Kong to help the police track down a mysterious and fearsome criminal genius known only as Painter (Chow Yun Fat).

  16. Project Gutenberg Movie Review : Christopher Muldong : Free Download

    Movie review for Project Gutenberg. Synopsis: The Hong Kong police hunt for a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind known as Painter. The gang is so skillful that it's almost impossible to distinguish between its counterfeit currency and real money. In an effort to find Painter's real identity, the police recruit artist Lee Man.

  17. Project Gutenberg Movie Reviews

    Buy Pixar movie tix to unlock Buy 2, Get 2 deal And bring the whole family to Inside Out 2; ... Project Gutenberg Critic Reviews and Ratings Powered by Rotten Tomatoes Rate Movie. Close Audience Score. The percentage of users who made a verified movie ticket purchase and rated this 3.5 stars or higher. ...

  18. Watch Project Gutenberg Online

    2018. 129 hr. 6.8 (4,985) Project Gutenberg is a 2018 thriller movie that brought together some of the most recognized names in the Hong Kong movie industry. Directed by Felix Chong, Project Gutenberg tells the story of a counterfeiting gang that operates between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Chow Yun-Fat plays the role of Lee Man, the leader ...

  19. Project Gutenberg (Movie Review)

    Project Gutenberg: a terrible synopsis by yours truly. There is an underappreciated artist whose craft isn't recognized in the art world but rather in the counterfeit world instead, for the ...

  20. Project Gutenberg streaming: where to watch online?

    Show all movies in the JustWatch Streaming Charts. Streaming charts last updated: 5:14:29 AM, 03/07/2024 . Project Gutenberg is 10996 on the JustWatch Daily Streaming Charts today. The movie has moved up the charts by 7688 places since yesterday. In the United States, it is currently more popular than Excess Flesh but less popular than Things ...

  21. Project Gutenberg Movie Review

    Movie review for Project Gutenberg.Synopsis:The Hong Kong police hunt for a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind known as Painter. The gang is so skillful...

  22. TheTwoOhSix: Project Gutenberg (無雙)

    The Movie: Project Gutenberg (無雙) The Director: Felix Chong The Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, Jingchu Zhang, Catherine Chau, David Yao-Qing Wang, Kai Chi Liu The Story: Cops chase counterfeiters while counterfeiters make fake stuff in big action spectacle.