Unlike last year’s superb Full Alert, this action-thriller
from Ringo Lam is merely competent - which is a massive disappointment
considering that this is Ringo Lam we’re talking about. Set
in the Philippines, it’s a straightforward action-drama about
Don Lee (Louis Koo), an ex-triad who gets released from prison
after a 12-year stay. Convicted of murder at the behest of
his boss Chan Hung (Simon Yam), he vows to go straight.
However, Don is immediately framed
for the murder of a Filipino political candidate by Chan Hung
and his best pal Max (played by a dour Julian Cheung). Don
goes on the run and takes HK reporter Annie Chung (Ada Choi)
hostage, but soon wins her sympathy and requests that she
write his story. Before long, Don finds himself the quarry
of both the cops and the triads. An ally arrives in the form
of Ray Lui, who plays a foreign legion soldier who’s hired
to take down the murderer - and believes that Don is innocent.
The set-up to this film is elaborate,
and there was an obvious expense in the film’s locale and
cast of hundreds. Still, the result is more bland than anything
else, as there is a distinct lack of passion in the film.
Though Ringo Lam has never been an emotional character director,
his ability to craft gripping, intense situations is unparalleled
in HK. That ability escapes him here, as the story is interesting
but ultimately uninspired.
Part of this may be due to the casting
of Louis Koo and Julian Cheung as the two leads. Koo is serviceable
as Don Lee and Julian Cheung actually works in his dark role,
but neither can make you forget the heyday of HK brotherhood/homoeroticism
as defined by Chow Yun-Fat and [insert actor here]. There
is no intensity between the two, and there clearly needs to
be some. Also, the side characters are not well developed.
Ada Choi, in particular, is wasted in her part (which seems
to be an unfortunate trend for her). However, despite the
film’s shortcomings there are some good action sequences and
enough of a plot to keep you interested. (Kozo 1998)