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October 5th, 2000 Issue #16

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 Kong Filmography.


NOTE: The following review has been excerpted from The Hong Kong Filmography. Information about the DVD edition, written specifically for Hong Kong Digital, follows.

Big Bullet
(1996; Golden Harvest/Paragon Films): 7/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Chung fung dui liu feng gaai tau

Chong feng dui nu huo jie tou

Emergency Unit: Angry Fire on the Streets

Cinematographer: Arthur Wong Ngok-tai
Art Director: Eddie Ma Poon-chiu
Music: Peter Kam Pui-tat
Writers: Susanne Chan Suk-yin, Joe Ma Wai-ho
Action Director: Ma Yuk-shing
Producer/Director: Benny Chan Muk-sing
Cast: Lau Ching-wan (Bill Zhu), Jordan Chan Siu-chun (Jeff), Cheung Tat-ming (Matt), Theresa Lee Yee-hung (Apple), Francis Ng Chun-yu (Yang), Anthony Wong Chau-sang ("Bird"), Yu Rongguang ("Professor").
Dolby Digital (DVD Only)
VHS: Tai Seng
Import LD/VCD/DVD: Universe. 91 minutes
Also known as EU Strike Force (Singapore title)

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.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5021
Dolby Digital stereo (5.1)
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Optional subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 chapters illustrated in the menu with stills
Letterboxed (1.80:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category II
91 minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.
This is a fairly good presentation overall, though the picture is a little soft and intermittently hazy. The sound has been re-mixed in 5.1 on both the Cantonese (sync sound) and Mandarin tracks, adding extra dimension and power, though some of the new foley FX are questionable (at one point, a police vehicle skids along a road on its side creating sparks; the new sound effect is more like the discharge from a fallen powerline). Unfortunately, as with theatrical prints and previous video releases, we still don't get a translation of Anthony Wong's Italian dialogue (the subtitles simply read "Damn" no matter what he says). Extras consist of bilingual bios/filmographies for Lau Ching-wan, Jordan Chan, Theresa Lee, Cheung Tat-ming, and Benny Chan, plus the theatrical trailer and trailers for LIFELINE, YOUNG AND DANGEROUS 3, THE LONGEST NITE, and EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED (presented in Mandarin for some reason).

Yu Rongguang. Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review