Friday, January 10, 2020

Undercover Punch and Gun

How's it feel to have this disc on the way and have someone share an article ranking the 37 Hong Kong movies released in 2019 where this comes in at #35 or #36? Not great. And there's probably not a whole lot of room to argue, either; it's bad in a way that doesn't really let one's jaw drop at how misguided it is. It's just a bad movie that doesn't have a whole lot of inspiration.

I was kind of mildly surprised to see a lot of credits for what looked like stereo work in it - not only was there no 3D disc available, but it didn't have a lot of scenes that look like they'd benefit. Since the movie seems to sat on servers for three years or so, I wouldn't be surprised if the studio did a quick conversion job to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the almost-certainly short run.

Also worth noting: Two of the stars of this movie are actually Chinese-American, which is kind of odd/sad to me - there really should be room in Hollywood for Vanness Wu and Andy On, and should have been back when they first started making movies in Hong Kong twenty years ago. We're so used to people coming to America to be international stars that we kind of missed that some are going in the other direction, in part because there aren't enough roles for Asian-American actors and there sometimes seems to be a limit on how high they can go.

Wo hu qian long (Undercover Punch and Gun aka Undercover vs. Undercover)

* * (out of four)
Seen 7 January 2020 in Jay's Living Room (watching discs, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

Undercover Punch and Gun - or Undercover vs. Undercover, if you prefer generic direct-to-video titles to ones where something seems to have been lost in a too-literal translation - is the sort of movie you get when the people whose job it is to grind out crime movies just have no inspiration but a looming deadline, so they take bits that have worked before and some of the ideas they haven't quite figured out and half-heartedly arrange them into a story. It's not very good even when the people involved are going about their work like professionals, and when it works, it almost seems to be by accident.

Two days ago, undercover detective King Wu (Philip Ng Wan-Lung) feared his cover was about to be blown as boss Brother Bob (Lam Suet) talked about there being a traitor in their midst just before a big deal, but he instead suspected Tiger (Wanness Wu Chien-Hao), because Bob has a bad tendency to sample the meth he sells. The buy is interrupted by an interloper and becomes a real mess, and while Wu's handlers want to pull him out, he feels like he's close to something, as he's dating Bob's daughter Dawnie (Aka Zhao Hui-Shan) and his designated successor. That's before he's contacted by both Magnum (Chui Shuai) and Eva (Joyce Feng Wen-Juan) of maritime law enforcement agency "Trident" and their target Ha (Andy On Chi-Kit), a former Trident agent who now works on the other side of the law and wants Wu to deliver Bob's drug cook.

First-time directors Philip Lui Koon-Nam and Frankie Tam Gong-Yuen have writing credits on a lot of better movies and have at least five other credited writers helping with the script, and it absolutely feels like a mix-and-match affair, where characters have a function but no real opinions or motivation outside of the single scene where one writer or another had the idea to do something with them. People and things are introduced and tossed away to create little circles that are self-contained but which never give the movie a feeling of moving in some direction, or any sort of point once it's done. It's an undercover cop movie that exists because these movies cost a certain amount and tend to make a little more, keeping a fair amount of Hong Kong actors employed.

Full review on eFilmCritic

No comments: