Chan's highly ambitious Hong Kong-Singapore production attempts
to take on the Hollywood action movie with Aaron
Kwok, gunplay, stunts, fights and CGI thrown into the mix.
Peter (Kwok) is an annoyingly perky computer
programmer, who spends his days playing video games with his close
friend Benny (Wu).
After his brother's arrival in Hong Kong, and another pay cheque to
subsidise his overspending, Peter once again seems to be on easy street....until
the Hong Kong police blow
his apartment door off, arrest him and his brother, and accuse them
of being spies for the US government.
From here the film goes off into computer nerd territory, using the
Millennium Bug, and some extremely nifty computer equipment to draw
out an overly complex plot which ultimately ends up its own modem.
Too many characters, and their motivations, are left unexplained.
This is particularly evident when it comes to the multi-lingual group
of villains, who seem so paper-thin I was worried they'd be blown
However, the film's saving grace is its gunplay. Dante
Lam's continuously imaginative direction lends the early action
scenes a huge amount of style and drama, making the film's opening
hour extremely entertaining.
It's a shame that once the production moves to Singapore, the momentum
previously built disperses rapidly, and the movie ends very unsatisfactorily.
The production's standout sequence by far is the car-park battle,
which not only features some great cinematography and editing, but
is also genuinely gripping, as characters that we care about are put
in great danger.
The only person given any sort of character arc is Peter. Aaron
Kwok's utterly irritating performance at the film's start actually
makes his subsequent transformation into a more serious and responsible
young man work particularly well.
He also handles himself strongly in the more dramatic moments, and
whilst I doubt an Oscar is on its way, his portrayal helps to give
a certain amount of depth to proceedings.
Having also performed many of the stunts himself, Aaron
Kwok also looks the part in the film's action sequences, although
the same cannot be said of the fight scenes.
Kwok proved himself perfectly capable
of pulling off some impressive moves in films such as 'The Barefoot
Kid', but he looks pathetic as he battles the lead villain in this.
This is due to weak editing and fight choreography, which leaves foot
and fist action lacking any sort of impact. Had the director stuck
to the short, sharp style he incorporated into Ken
Lo and Kwok's early encounter, it would have made for a far more
The rest of the cast are almost totally superfluous, as they're given
little to do other than run around behind Kwok.
There is however, one exception to this rule - Francis Ng. Although
his screen-time is short, the impact he makes is massive. He manages
to give his aged police officer a very human persona, which instantly
catches the eye, and the heart.
Not too dissimilar from
their transfer of Purple Storm, HKL
present a largely mark-free and superbly detailed image.
The numerous pieces of weaponry and computer equipment look impressively
crisp, whilst facial detail is picked out with unerring accuracy.
On a few occasions, the print looks slightly soft, although these
moments are fleeting.
Shadow detail and black levels are very good, and partnered with the
natural and perfectly contained colour, the image quality is uniformly
However, as with Purple Storm (although
to a lesser extent), a number of scenes exhibit a noticeable amount
of grain in both the background and foreground, which can be mildly
One other aspect which I must mention is yet another poorly placed
Layer-Change. The transition
appears slap-bang in the middle of an exchange of dialogue, and is
Thankfully becoming more
frequent in Hong Kong cinema, the movie was originally shot in Dolby
Digital 5.1, and as such, sounds excellent.
Gunshots are panned around the speakers to great effect, and the sniper
attack and car-park battle are superbly immersing experiences.
Ambient noises, and less dynamic sound effects are also steered around
with control and clarity, and whilst dialogue at one point exhibits
a noticeable hiss, the overall quality of the Cantonese track is fantastic.
English dialogue is rightfully
left unsubtitled, and Chinese dialogue is represented very well by
the subs. There's a small amount of oversimplification and rejigged
dialogue, but otherwise the translations are very good.
As you'd expect, the subs are well sized and easily readable against
any colour background.
Apart from another all
too revealing main menu sequence, and a few difficult to read menu
options, the general quality of the menus is high. All the following
sub-menus are equally stylish and fit the film's high-tech storyline.
Most notable for the segments of camcorder footage featuring
Aaron Kwok, this Making Of... is a welcome addition.
Subtitled throughout, the cast and Gordon
Chan give their impressions of working with one another, as behind-the-scenes
footage is interspersed with dialogue.
About 5 minutes in, Aaron's "Creations"
music video is played in its entirety, and whilst it's subtitled in
Chinese, English subtitles are sadly absent.
After this segment, further camcorder footage and interviews are introduced,
and make for a very offbeat, though fun, feature.
stills from the film are presented in an easy to use menu system.
A "look once and forget" extra.
UK Promo Trailer (1.38 mins)
Another HKL all-action trailer which, due to its frenetic composition,
borders on inducing epilepsy.
Yet another case of the film's dialogue and plot being overlooked
in order to cram in as much action as possible. Very disappointing.
Original Theatrical Trailer (2 mins)
With optional subtitles present as usual, the Hong Kong trailer utterly
destroys the HKL version. Stylish composition and a good mix of action
and drama make for an infinitely superior representation of the movie.
HK Teaser (45 seconds)
A very short teaser-trailer which just announces who's starring in
the production, who's directing and that it's 'Coming Soon'.
HK Music Promo (1.05 mins)
This isn't a music promo, more a second teaser-trailer. It's an imaginative
little piece, utilising a computerised Aaron Kwok and some strategically
applied camouflage paint.
Gordon Chan (14.30 mins)
Gordon Chan's eloquent English gets a
run-out as he talks informatively about his experiences of working
on the movie.
Some fascinating pieces of information are offered by Chan, with his
quiet persona making this interview a pleasant experience.
Post-goatee and floppy hair, Andrew gives brief details of his background,
and then disappointingly spends little time talking about 2000AD.
Padding comes in the form of clips from the 'The Black Sheep Affair'
and '2000AD', and whilst he seems like a nice guy, he never really
grabs your attention.
Big Boss Fist Of Fury Way Of The Dragon
Eastern Condors Armour
Of God In The Line Of Duty Iron Monkey Purple
Storm Magnificent Warriors
Joined by Gordon Chan, the unmatchable
Bey Logan proves once again that no one else does a Hong Kong commentary
with anything like his humour, warmth and knowledge.
Working alongside Gordon allows Bey to
ask a number of intelligent questions regarding the actors and the
I found it quite amazing when Chan pointed out the CGI effects used
during certain scenes, and his explanation of the movie's abrupt conclusion
also went some way to allay my disappointment.
Another superb commentary, and easily the disc's finest extra.
are enough high points in Gordon Chan
and Dante Lam's action packed 1999 popcorn
movie to make it well worth seeing. However, the plot's not one of
Seeing Francis Ng on top form, a handful
of superb gun battles in the first hour and some original direction,
might be enough of a reason to buy this HKL release.
However, the total collapse of atmosphere and pacing as the film nears
its conclusion leave a lot to be desired.
A required rental? Yes. A required purchase? No.