Look, I don’t want to come across like someone’s
grouchy old grandfather wheezing about the good old days to a stranger
sitting next to him on a park bench – but after suffering through this
completely mind numbing film I am either in need of venting or ventilation.
Simply put, this is swill looking for a drainage hole to sink into. Is
this really the future of Hong Kong action films? If so – I can hardly
wait for Lethal Weapon V and Die Hard IV.
I don’t necessarily expect a lot from an action
film – a plot that I can follow, some characters that I care about and
some well-thought out action scenes. This film delivers on none of these.
For most of the film, the story makes less sense than a Jasper Johns painting.
In fact at one point – in a smug inside joke I assume – Jordan tries to
explain what’s going on – but whenever he does his words are drowned out
by airplane noise. That is because the scriptwriters didn’t have a clue
– this is patchwork filmmaking at it’s worst and they really didn’t care
– put in a few top stars and the suckers will come to see it (or worse
buy the DVD in my case!).
No amount of attractive actors pursing their lips
or furrowing their brows or pointing guns can make these characters worth
watching. We never find out anything about them – and honestly we never
really want to. They are mere mannequins going through the motions. Character
development consists of Leon Lai and Jordan Chan talking elliptically about
cars, Sam Lee and his sunglasses and Michelle Saram dying her hair bright
orange. If these characters had all been killed during the film would anyone
have even noticed? And one rule of thumb for any film – whenever they introduce
an outlandish animal for no reason except to take up time or try to humanize
the characters – a baby orangutan in this case – it is an admittance of
Of course, the great thing about action films
is that even if the plot is as confusing as watching a mahjong game on
acid (ie. Dragons from Russia) or the characters have the depth of a New
York slice of pizza (Gen X-Cops), Hong Kong action choreography can still
make it a religious experience. Watching these dull overly edited action
sequences though is like a long day in purgatory. It is nothing but a bunch
of quickly edited shots that add up to nothing. When the band is breaking
into a high security building – the camera follows the characters and their
actions in such a disjointed manner that the viewer cannot possibly follow
what is happening. It’s MTV not cinema – a fashion showcase rather than
an action showcase - and I am getting so tired of it.
As annoyed as I am at this recent trend in HK
action films, let us truly shed a tear for director Wilson Yip. Yip has
been one of the most innovative directors in HK for the past few years
with droll personal takes on the genres of triad films (Mongkok Story),
horror (Bio-Zombie), cops and robbers (Bullets over Summer) and romance
(Juliet in Love). For him to be saddled with this techno-geek-faux-action
film must have been painful indeed - perhaps the price of doing future
projects. Before this, Yip’s films have always been small, thoughtful affairs
and he must have needed electroshock therapy every morning before going
on the set for this one. I know I did after watching this. The fact that
this is a UFO production only makes it more depressing.
Since in theory this is a review and not a rant,
I should at least mention a few specifics about the film. It begins with
Jordan looking very miffed – as if his favorite flavor of ice cream wasn’t
available – someone is hanging on a rope – someone cuts the rope – someone
falls very very far. Ok – is that clear? Now its three years later and
Leon and his crew of techno-thieves (Jordan, Sam Lee and Michelle Saram)
break into a bank’s vault to steal a . . . baseball card. Wow was that
ever exciting. At least it wasn’t an Ed Kranepool baseball card – I think
it may have been Honus Wagner (can anyone verify this?). Now Honus Wagner
is worth talking about. He was one of the great players of all-time – batted
.329 over seventeen years for the Pittsburgh Pirates and played a dazzling
short stop. His 1909 baseball card was sold on E-bay for US $1.1 million
Later they get hired to break into another location
to steal the cure for cancer (this all taking place in Malaysia) from Patrick
Lung Kong (the bad guy in Black Mask and one of the top Hong Kong directors
of the 1960’s – Story of a Discharged Prisoner and Teddy Girls) and Leon
runs into his girlfriend (in real life) Hsu Chi strolling around in tight
black pants and not having much to say. In fact Hsu Chi never says very
much – even when she gets shot – and one has to wonder why she was in the
film at all. She doesn’t appear until near the forty-minute mark – and
has no purpose that I can think of – but then neither does Sam or Michelle
or Jordan. This is Leon’s show – and lets not forget the orangutan. Trying
to decide whom the biggest monkey is would be difficult to say – Leon for
appearing in this film or me for watching it. I didn’t think it could get
worse than For Bad Boys Only – but even Bad Boys had a mild sense of fun
– this has none - feeling like a crotchety old grandfather I award this
My rating for this film: 2.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is fine as candy wine.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
There is a trailer for this film - and ones
for Marooned, Lavender and Summer Holiday.
There are Star Files on Hsu Chi, Leon Lai,
Jordan Chan, Sam Lee.
There is a Making of section - with no English