Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film
reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong
Cinematographer: Arthur Wong Ngok-tai
Lau Ching-Wan and Cheung Tat-Ming. Image courtesy Universe.
Now that police procedural specialist Che-Kirk Wong has departed to Hollywood, one of his successors in the genre could turn out to be a man few would have placed at the forefront of HK filmmakers: Benny Chan Muk-sing. With the notable exception of his slick, trend-setting action/drama A Moment of Romance (1990), Chan's work has been uniformly lackluster, leading some to attribute the high quality of Romance to the production involvement of Johnny To and Ringo Lam. With Big Bullet, he finally displayed some genuine proficiency once again and transformed a potentially mundane cop actioner into a witty, economical, and consistently exciting thriller. In addition to impressing many HK critics, the film obviously struck a chord with Jackie Chan, who tapped him to co-direct his next movie, Who Am I? (1998).
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang. Image courtesy Universe.
Lau Ching-wan stars here as Zhu, a distinguished but short-fused officer who is transferred to the "Emergency Unit" after decking his incompetent superior. When his friend and former superior Yang is killed during a mob hit, Zhu leads his ragtag team of EU subordinates way out of their jurisdiction and into direct conflict with the criminals. After a daring robbery of $9 million in US dollars from Interpol Headquarters, the gang tries to get the money out of HK aboard a hijacked British transport craft, leading to an exciting battle both inside and on top of the plane.
Jordan Chan, Spencer Lam, Cheung Tat-Ming, Lau Ching-Wan, and Theresa Lee (left to right). Image courtesy Universe.
Like Steven Tung's equally diverting Fox Hunter (1995), Big Bullet never strays beyond the bounds of its genre but does such a good job in every department that the cliches become amiable rather than tiresome. In contrast to the standard HK action star vehicles, this is peopled almost solely by character actors and comedians, all of whom turn in fine work. Lau Ching-wan is one of HK's busiest performers, specializing in offbeat characterizations in both comedies and dramas, and he does a first rate job as an action hero. One of HK's most promising new stars, Theresa Lee is marvellous as a spunky Canadian-born cop with a knack for computers, while Cheung Tat-ming and Spencer Lam provide some well-timed comic relief. The wittiest bit of casting, however, is the decision to have Jordan Chan (best known for his seemingly endless stream of roles as petty gangsters and Generasian X losers) play the requisite straight-laced, by-the-book cop in the group. It's a definite stretch for him but he's more than up to it. As the villains, Wong and Yu are more restrained than usual and are overshadowed by the heroes, which is the way it really should be anyway (name one recent Hollywood action film where the villain didn't outshine the hero). Dayo Wong Chi-wah puts in a characteristic appearance as a flaky informant and actor/director Vincent Kok Tak-chiu appears briefly as an officer who keeps Zhu abreast of developments at headquarters.
Francis Ng Chun-Yu. Image courtesy Universe.
Yu Rongguang. Image courtesy Universe.