2000AD
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Year:
1999
Run Time:
98 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Ratio:
Region:
Genre:
Action / Thriller - 18 (UK)
 
MOVIE
7/10

Gordon 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 b
low 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 away.

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 fulfilling fight.

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.

PICTURE
9/10

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 excellent.

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 distracting.
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 extremely disconcerting.

SOUND
10/10

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.

SUBTITLES
8/10

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.

MENUS
7/10

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.

EXTRAS
8/10

Making Of....

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.


Picture Gallery

25 stills from the film are presented in an easy to use menu system. A "look once and forget" extra.

Trailers:

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.

Interviews:

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.

Andrew Lin
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.

Further Attractions:

• Big Boss • Fist Of Fury • Way Of The Dragon • Eastern CondorsArmour Of God • In The Line Of Duty • Iron Monkey • Purple StormMagnificent WarriorsCity Hunter

Commentary:
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 film-making process.
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.

CONCLUSION
7/10

There 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 them.
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.

MOVIE 7/10
PICTURE 9/10
SOUND 10/10
SUBTITLES 8/10
EXTRAS 7/10
MENUS 8/10
PACKAGING 7/10
OVERALL 7/10