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Urban Games
Urban Games

Shawn Dou gets extreme in Urban Games.
Chinese: 城市遊戲  
Year: 2014
Director: Robert Brown, Zhang Feng
Producer: Robert Brown, Ray Zimmerman, Johnny Martin
Writer: Robert Brown, Francisco Castro

Shawn Dou, Michelle Chen Yan-Xi, Ashton Chen (Sik Siu-Lung), Ye Qing, Zhou Weitong, Kim Jun-Ho, He Kuan, Robert Gilabert Cuenca

  The Skinny: Chinese action-adventure movie made by Hollywood stunt dudes about an extreme sports participant who must avenge his brother’s extreme sports death by participating in even more extreme sports. As quality-challenged as this synopsis would lead you to believe.
by Kozo:
Directed and written by Hollywood stunt coordinator Robert Brown, Urban Games is essentially a western B-film actioner produced in and made for China. The film’s production makes sense because China is a rapidly growing market for films and if you pitch a safe (i.e., non-political and basically PG-13), reasonably-budgeted product, you can probably find the funding – that is, if you’re fine with making a film with Chinese actors and not in the English language. Whatever – films can be excellent based on only action, so having some guy spouting Mandarin while busting heads should be fine to audiences provided the product isn’t all out terrible. That said, Urban Games is pretty much all-out terrible and if you think otherwise, well, that’s nice.

Shawn Dou stars as Web Zhang, an extreme sports athlete who loses his brother to a terrible wingsuit accident in Utah. Months later, a depressed Web is performing parkour on the street in China while also swearing never to be involved with extreme sports again. However, since the death of his brother, extreme sports have been on the rise, as demonstrated by the reality show Urban Games, called UG by more than one person. Web’s friend Tyler Lee (Kim Jun-Ho), who was present when Web’s brother bought it, wants Web back in the game because “UG is hot!” and they can make lots of money. Web says “no”, so Tyler kidnaps his own girlfriend Syndra (Ye Qing), who also happens to be Web’s sister, to get Web to sign up for Urban Games. So besides being a terrible boyfriend, Tyler is also a crappy friend.

His hand forced, Web hightails it to Korea to participate in the Urban Games, which are trumpeted with the tagline “Urban Games: Bloody Awesome!” So begins Web’s journey, as he fights injustice, falls in love and does “extreme” things. Let’s give credit where it’s due: Urban Games has a story. It’s unfortunately a generic and incredibly lame story that makes little sense given any scrutiny. One big issue: Is Urban Games legal? One would guess “yes” due to the televised nature of the show, but the challenges take place in public areas where pedestrians seem to be in danger, plus some of the games are basically death traps. The cops do show eventually, though it’s only when it’s time for someone to be arrested. Before then, Urban Games basically runs rampant, endangering civilians all over Seoul. SAPPRFT is probably cool with this because Seoul is in Korea.

Urban Games looks and feels like a bad nineties film; art direction is garishly hokey, and the film lacks urgency despite involving death and a kidnapping. Everything about the story is routine and uninspired, including the boring characters like hackneyed romantic interest Fee (Michelle Chen, continuing to squander the buzz she earned from You Are the Apple of My Eye), plus the mysterious mastermind whose identity is neither surprising nor interesting. The whole thing feels like a crappy project from a community college screenwriting class; there’s a recognizable framework but the details, motivations, dialogue and development are all bad. The ending blows too; one main villain is captured offscreen after the climactic action sequence rather than during it. That’s lazy storytelling, though the audience should be grateful for closure because it reduces chances for a sequel.

All would be forgiven if the action was good, but it’s only so-so. Lackluster direction brings down the otherwise promising set pieces and parkour sequences. Spastic camerawork and editing mar the action, and one of the big Urban Games challenges, involving jumping from a large height and riding the air flow from a huge industrial fan, is a pure CGI creation – a disappointment since the film touts actual stunt people as its creators. Bad ADR and crappy costuming – Tyler wears puffy pirate shirts and eyeliner like a vapid popstar – are the icing on this C-minus effort. With some inspiration, bad movies can still be good, but Urban Games misses that sweet spot by a zillion meters and ends up uninteresting, incompetent and forgettable. “UG” may be hot, but Urban Games clearly is not. (Kozo, 10/2014)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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