alumni of the Joel Silver Actors Troupe reunite for the stunning fourth
chapter in their highly popular kung fu rapper series: White and Wong
Detective Agency! In a city where crime is king and police corruption
knows no bounds - two private investigators decide to partner up, mixing
good ol' fashioned American ingenuity with the exotic mysticism of Chinese
martial arts to mete out their own brand of multicultural street justice!
Jet Li plays Raymond Wong, a down on his
luck private eye in New York's Chinatown, who must struggle with the fact
that he only has about ten lines of English dialogue in the entire picture.
While on a big case, Wong meets Jack White (Tom Arnold), a vulgar, bullheaded
private dick who doesn't understand the lack of clientele at his Harlem-based
office. It seems that White and Wong are both after the elusive Macau
Monkey, an ebony colored statuette that may be more than it seems (Spoiler
alert! It's an inter-dimensional teleportation device!). The two form
an uneasy alliance, butting heads at first, all the while flinging hateful
racist epithets at each other. But unexpectedly, they soon put their differences
aside to find the statuette and return it to their mutual client, Madame
Ho (Kelly Hu).
Working solely on vague hunches and insupportable
gut feelings, the unlikely duo track the Macau Monkey to the gangster
hideout of the seemingly irredeemable Mr. Big (DMX), a drug-running, loan-sharking,
millionaire pimp. Though Mr. Big is an out-and-out killer, wasting six
civilians with his AK-47 at one point, I say "kudos" to the
filmmakers for peeling back the layers to this highly complicated man.
What the police and innocent civilians don't know is that Mr. Big is actually
an environmentally concerned single father of three adopted Korean kids
- Dee, Emma, and Ecks. Being the noted thespian that he is, DMX turns
in a performance that has Oscar written all over it as he reveals in this
tearful sequence that not only has the statue been stolen from him, but
so has his darling "baby-girl" Emma. Apparently a couple of
small-time gay crooks known as Black and Decker (played by Ja Rule and
Anthony Anderson) have swiped the Macau Monkey and kidnapped Big's child.
The duo hopes to pawn the idol so they can flee to Buenos Aires and re-ignite
their now-faltering relationship. Little Emma could be the key, as the
two men hope to raise her as their own.
Before White and Wong leave, Mr. Big sends
his sister Boo (Ashanti) to accompany the boys on their mission of vengeance.
But when White, Wong, and Boo track down Black and Decker in the their
apartment, they are surprised to find that little Emma has turned the
tables on her kidnappers in a hilarious kung fu send-up of O. Henry's
"Ransom of Red Chief"! Though only eight years old, Emma naturally
has card-carrying membership in the Shaolin temple. It doesn't matter
that she's Korean, the fact remains that she's Asian, so defeating the
mismatched lovers with her "Drunk Monkey in the Tiger's Eye"
stance was only second nature for her. The beaten and bruised Black and
Decker tell White and Wong that a mysterious "Ponytailed Man"
(Steven Seagal) has stolen the idol from them, too. White tells Wong that
he has a feeling that the man fled to Tibet, but Wong overrules him by
showing a faded "boarding pass" written on a napkin that the
villain conveniently dropped as he left the apartment. The napkin says
And so, the hapless heroes head to Italy
for the final showdown. Accustomed to these kinds of death duels, Wong
decides to visit the Roman Coliseum. Lo and behold, the pony-tailed villain
known only as "Bubbles" is waiting for him, monkey idol in hand.
Both itching for a fight, the cross-cultural combatants face off in a
scene that is vaguely reminiscent of Bruce Lee's climactic battle with
Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. But unlike that crummy old movie,
this film ups the stakes considerably! Not only is it raining, not only
are the two fighters surrounded by a ring of fire, but this time there
are also actual lions for them to fight with! Yowza! With the assistance
of wirework, Steven Seagal soars above Li executing some gravity-defying
kicks and aikido moves, all the while trying to hide his sadly visible
paunch. In a novel move, Seagal whips Li with his ponytail, which has
a razor attached to the end! I think that's an oblique reference to some
other Jet Li movie, but I'm not really sure. To be honest, I don't really
like Hong Kong films. And hey, if you thought Mark Dacascos's and Tcheky
Karyo's deaths in Cradle 2 the Grave and Kiss of the Dragon
were gruesome, wait 'till you see Steven Seagal get torn in half by the
man-eating lions! Hakuna matata beeyotch!
And best of all, I think the director handled
the film's resolution with a lot of class. Sure, Jet Li's character does
the majority of the work, most of the investigating, and all of the fighting
in the film while Tom Arnold's character simply makes smart-ass remarks
and gets kidnapped a lot, but thankfully, the filmmakers chose not to
have Jet Li end up with the girl at the conclusion of the movie. It was
a wise decision because Western audiences would find it hard to accept
that a good-looking, competent Asian man like Jet Li could land an American
hottie like Ashanti. But I'm glad they let Tom Arnold hook up with Kelly
Hu, since we all know loudmouthed, overweight white guys really can win
over gorgeous Asian women.
So, what's the verdict? This movie's got a plea
for multicultural understanding, a realistic examination of gay life,
a dope hip-hop soundtrack that is off the hook, and some gravity-defying
kung fu to boot. What more could a viewer ask for? White and Wong Detective
Agency: righting wrongs in a theater near you! (Sanjuro 2003)