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January 25th, 2000 Issue #46

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.

Cold War
(2000; Bryan Films Co.): 3/10

Cover art courtesy Winson.

Laang jin

Leng zhan

Cold War

Simon Yam Tat-wah. Image courtesy Winson.

Suave assassin Ka Chu (Simon Yam Tat-wah) is hired to eliminate Liang Yung-yan (played by the film's director, veteran kung fu star Bryan Leung Kar-yan) but accidentally kills the man's gay twin brother (also Leung) instead. Accompanied by his partner, Maria (Christy Chung Lai-tai), Ka next journeys to Seoul to take out Taiwanese weapons smuggler / drug dealer Chue Chung. With the help of his younger brother, Yung (Vincent Wan Yeung-ming), Chue and his Tien Yee gang have become the most powerful gangsters in South East Asia. Chue possesses such influence in fact, that the South Korean authorities have been unable to make any charges against him stick.

Vincent Wan Yeung-ming and Christy Chung Lai-tai. Image courtesy Winson.

Looking over his past assignments, Ka deduces that three recent targets were high-ranking Tien Yee lieutenants, suggesting that someone within the gang is planning on taking over. He's right: Yung and Maria are in cahoots and the former has ordered her to ice Ka after the hit is completed. Against his better judgement, Ka goes ahead with the job and exterminates Chue but Maria cannot turn on her companion of three years. It is up to Ka to deal with Yung, a task made even more difficult by the local police, who have identified him and are hot on the trail.

Vincent Wan. Image courtesy Winson.

Those partial to late 80s/early 90s action cheapies might also cotton to this similarly economical effort, though even they will have to be in a very forgiving frame of mind. The storyline possesses the sort of tiresome inevitability that might be forgivable, if the various shootouts were exciting enough. As it stands, they are not only pedestrian but perilously few in number and events unfold at a numbingly slow pace. Most of the budget seems to have gone towards location work in South Korea and The Philippines and the leads seem as bored with the material as the audience (Yam just walks through the proceedings, while Chung spends most of the movie looking sullen: who can blame them?). The movie is further burdened by a pointless subplot involving a bar hostess (played by a Korean actress called Kam Chi both in the credits and by the characters onscreen) who witnesses Chue's murder and is rushed to the hospital by Ka when she accidentally catches a bullet (sound familiar?). Attempts by cinematographer Ross Clarkson (who photographed Ringo Lam's THE SUSPECT and THE VICTIM) to give the project some visual flair seem just as tired and derivative as everything else and his work is done no favors by the video transfer (see below). In contrast to the more international flavor most HK action films strive for these days, nothing but post-synched Cantonese is spoken in this version, making the picture seem even more passé.

Christy Chung. Image courtesy Winson.

DVD Specs:

Winson #WDV 3044C
Dolby Digital (2.0 and 5.1 options)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
9 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (1.75:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB (for mid-range violence)
91 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Winson.

Winson's sub-standard DVD presentation does not make COLD WAR any easier to sit through. The source material looks aged, with speckling throughout; colors are flat, contrasts are weak, and a few scenes are much too dark. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking this to be a production from the mid-80s, rather than one only twelve months old. The sound on the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks is coarse and distorted, with the 5.1 versions just spreading the mono out over additional channels. However, the biggest flaw in the presentation is the subtitles, which lag behind the dialogue throughout, an encoding flaw that affects both the English and Chinese options. There are also no extras so, if you are a diehard fan of Simon Yam and / or Christy Chung and absolutely have to see this, do yourself a favor and get either the VCD or VHS editions.

Simon Yam. Image courtesy Winson.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

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