Gen-X Cops Review

The Film
First of all I am going to hold my hands up and admit that I have very little knowledge of the Hong Kong film genre. Terrible I know, but sometimes it is nice to hear a fresh approach to a genre from a newcomer like myself. This is the HK equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster action movie. The budget was reasonable at $30 million and Jackie Chan co-produced this alongside the Director/writer Benny Chan. This film is also notable as it employed several Hollywood special effects and stunt people. As a result the film feels like an East/West crossover and for the most part it succeeds.

The plot has a typical blockbuster style storyline. Those darned gangsters are at it again; this time stealing rocket fuel in order to achieve chaos. The cops aren’t having much luck and as a result the bumbling Inspector Chan (Eric Tsang) defies his superiors and recruits three new undercover cops. He goes to the police academy and finds the ideal candidates. Unfortunately they are about to be kicked out for insubordination. Jack (Nicholas Tse), Match (Stephen Fung) and Alien (Sam Lee) agree to go undercover for Chan in return for a second chance. It seems they are on the trail of the wrong man to begin with and Chan is ridiculed by the rest of the police department for trusting the three young rebels. Eventually the three get on the right track with help from Y2K (Grace Yip). They track down the Japanese gangster Akatora (Toru Nakamura) and face him down. Cue explosions, gunfights, some kung fu action and a constantly shifting main plot. Oh and make sure to watch out for Jackie Chan’s cameo, it’s a cracker.

Surprisingly enough the films plot is its strong point. Having seen a lot of thinly plotted blockbusters, it was a pleasant surprise to watch one that had some depth to it. Of course like any other action movie there are plot holes you can drive a bus through, but this is to be expected. The delight here is that the plot and characters are constantly shifting; every time you settle down and decide who the main adversaries are, they all change places. I’m not talking about endless cheesy plot twists this is genuine shifting of the dynamic amongst the main characters. This results in the film not being quite as action-packed as you might think, but this is a positive point. There is also a vague attempt here to do some self-referential stuff a la Scream. Only problem is that the instances are too infrequent; if they were going to go down that route they should have committed to it rather than flirting with it as they do here.

The action and effects are top notch. Explosions are big, loud and frequent. The gunfights are superb; they rattle along and are beautifully choreographed. There is a tendency here to crib from John Woo’s big book of gunfight sequences and they certainly can’t do slowmo as well as Woo. The kung fu is weaker and seems disjointed in places without any real flow to it. I prefer the hand to hand stuff to ebb and flow almost like a dance whereas this seemed very confused and stop-start in places.

The acting is patchy with the bad guys providing the best performances. Daniel Wu as Daniel is a great gangster, full of icy stares and edgy dialogue. But he is out-stared by Nakamura, the Japanese gangster. The three young Gen-X cops were competent but a little to pretty for the parts I thought (especially Tse and Fung). Tsang (Chan) is far too OTT for my liking. He spends a lot of the time gurning and hamming it up rather than acting. Unfortunately this means some of the later scenes lack the poignancy they should have. I haven’t mentioned the girls yet, mainly because they are criminally underused. Grace Yip gets a fair amount to do as Y2K but fails to shine. Jaymee Ong (Haze) on the other hand seems to be there simply to look pretty.

I have to say that my first experience of HK cinema has been a pretty good one. I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a mindless blockbuster. It is certainly a lot better than many of Hollywood’s more recent attempts at the genre. I think the film industry can learn a lot about making the traditional summer popcorn movie by watching a few of these. I will certainly be searching out more HK films now I’ve had my appetite whetted.

The Disc

The disc is yet another mixed bag. I seem to say this a lot with most disc producers. The menus are functional and have some good clips in the background along with a thumping soundtrack. The 108-minute film has 30 chapters, which is fair enough. As far as I can ascertain the film is uncut, any discrepancy in running time seems to be down to PAL speedup.

The picture is anamorphic 2.35:1 as shown in the cinema. The picture is bright and sharp with very little grain throughout. I saw little or no artefacting during the film and print damage was negligible. Black level was excellent and shadow detail just as good. Colour-wise I felt it looked a little muted in places and lacking contrast in others. Not reference quality but certainly a great print and transfer.

The sound was vaguely disappointing. We have a Chinese 5.1 DD track and a DD 2.0 English dub. The 5.1 track is ok but nothing special. Rears were criminally underused in the action sequences. The sound effects were crisp and clear, as was the dialogue. However I just didn’t feel it was doing the surround sound justice. The English dub track is adequate if you like such things, but as it is only 2.0 you miss out on the limited surround.

The extras are quite thin on the ground here. There is a 30-minute featurette, which is slightly better than the usual 10-minute puff promo piece you normally get. It does cover a lot of work done with the U.S. stunt men and special effects supervisors, which is an interesting bonus. This feature has burnt in subtitles so even if you speak Chinese, you can’t switch them off.

There is an American and Chinese trailer along with two teaser trailers. The Chinese trailer has no subtitles so be warned. There is also the music video for the risible theme to the film, “You Can’t Stop Me!”. This song grates after hearing it more than twice. Since the song appears regularly throughout the film and is the background music for the majority of the featurette I can’t imagine you’d want to subject yourself to it again.

Finally there are two text sections. The cast and crew segment provides a rough outline of each character and then a short piece detailing the actor/crew member’s history. The second text section is several pages of production notes. Whilst being far from exhaustive they do impart some nuggets of information for the die-hard fan.

The biggest crime here is that we are missing one major extra that was on the R1 disc. A not inconsiderable 51 minutes of deleted scenes are conspicuous by their absence. Now whilst a lot of these may be rubbish it is a crying shame that yet again R2 is missing out on a pretty major extra.

The film is a great popcorn film. Get some mates round and watch some action, funny one-liners and explosions. The disc is patchy; the picture is great, the sound so-so and the extras average. If you are a big fan of the film, I have to say go for R1 if you can as it has the aforementioned 51 minutes of deleted scenes. Metrodome were so close to getting a gold star and then they fail at the final hurdle.

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