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The University of Southampton

FILM6057 East Asian Action Cinema

Module Overview

This module will use the work of Johnnie To, a prominent Hong Kong action film director, as the main example to study East Asian action cinema, and to interrogate issues of genre and authorship, as well as the intersection of the local and the global.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Contemporary Hong Kong cinema since 1997 and broad awareness of previous movements/developments in HK cinema.
  • The diversity and recurrence of themes and styles in the work of one director.
  • Debates surrounding the relationship between auteur and genre.
  • Key concepts of transnational and Asian cinema.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with a range of theoretical material.
  • Understand and use a range of specialised terms and concepts.
  • Apply different theoretical models and concepts to a variety of filmic texts.
  • Successfully analyse specific filmic texts, situating this analysis in aesthetic and cultural context.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Write effectively, accurately and critically in an appropriate academic style.
  • Coherently and persuasively argue your ideas, verbally and in written form.
  • Independently identify and locate appropriate critical resources.
  • Participate productively in and, where appropriate, lead academic discussion.
  • Organise your time successfully, respecting and meeting deadlines.


The module will explore issues in East Asian action cinema, by examining the work of Johnnie To. Johnnie To Kei-Fung has directed films for Hong Kong television and cinema since the 1970s, but has become internationally more acknowledged only since the late 1980s. Since 2000, he has become one of Hong Kong's most prominent and prolific filmmakers, and his films are increasingly showcased at international festivals. Possessing a distinctive visual flair, To’s films (mostly produced by his independent company Milkyway Image) represent a contemporary Hong Kong cinema that defies distinctions between popular genre and art cinema, mobilising both domestic cultural traditions and international influences and references (especially with classical Hollywood, but also with European film). As such, To’s oeuvre is ideally suited to discuss questions of authorship, genre, and the intersection between the local and the global in contemporary world cinema. The module will focus on close readings of a selected group of To’s films including, for example, PTU (2003), Breaking News (2004), Election (2005, and its sequel, 2006), Mad Detective (2007), Sparrow (2007), and Vengeance (2009). This selection will enable you to perceive and analyse the continuities within To’s work, but also get a sense of the cultural distinctiveness of contemporary Hong Kong cinema. The focus of this module will enable you to study a particular example of world cinema in depth.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Plenary sessions to deal with general themes and concepts, ideas. • Seminars involving student led presentations, whole class and small group discussions. These will centre more on close textual readings. • Weekly screenings of selected films. • One to one consultation with tutor.

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Michael Ingham (2009). Johnnie To Kei-Fung’s PTU. 

Anne Tereska Ciecko, ed (2006). Contemporary Asian Cinema: Popular Culture in a Global Frame. 

Meaghan Morris, Siu Leung Li, Stephen Ching-Kiu Chan, eds (2006). Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema. 

Leon Hunt, Leung Wing-Fai, eds (2008). East Asian Cinemas: Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. 

Stephen Teo (2007). Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film. 

David Bordwell (2000). Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. 

Ackbar Abbas (1997). Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-going feedback: • You will be invited to discuss preparation for formal assessment with the tutor. • You will be invited to discuss your work in progress, including seminar presentations and contributions, with the tutor. • Guidance on all forms of assessment will be supplied in initial module documentation and in class. • Written feedback on assignment cover sheets. • Discussion of completed assignments in tutorials.Note on assessments for MA level work • Topics chosen for the assignments should allow a great degree of focus and detail, whether of analysis, examination of and commentary on facts, critical insight, independent argument, or other factors. • Conversely, assignments should demonstrate a broad knowledge and understanding of context, a confident use of analytical and critical tools, and a mature handling of argument and materials. • Optimal standards of presentation are required, in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar; sophistication of vocabulary; provision of footnotes; inclusion of full bibliographical and related details; physical appearance of work, etc. In short, MA level students should aspire at all times to the highest possible levels of work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 90%
Presentation 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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