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April 23rd, 2001 Issue #53

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.

Are you into Jackie Chan movies? If so, you'll get a kick out of this flash animation seqeunce that was done by a person who is obviously a fan of action movies. It takes a while to load but it is well worth the wait. Thanks to Paul Kazee and NatKingSoul of Subway Cinema for passing along the link.

The Accidental Spy
(2001; Golden Harvest): 8/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.

Dat mo mai sing


Te wu mi cheng

Special Operation Mystifies City or Special Operation Mysterious City

While some fans will no doubt be disappointed by the fact that he is continuing to favor large scale, international-style actioners, there is quite a bit to enjoy in Jackie Chan's latest HK production. In fact, THE ACCIDENTAL SPY emerges as the star’s most all-around entertaining picture since DRUNKEN MASTER II, despite suffering from some of the pitfalls that have plagued his other recent efforts.

Jackie Chan. Image courtesy Universe.

Limber sports equipment salesman Buck Yuen (Chan) gets chewed out by his boss (Cheung Tat-ming) for not pushing the expensive hardware in their failing store when an affluent customer and his bimbo wife stop in for a browse. While on a lunch break at a local shopping mall, Buck single-handedly foils a bank robbery and his heroics make him a media sensation. Haggard private detective Many Liu (Eric Tsang Chi-wai) tracks Buck down and directs him to a lawyer (Alfred Cheung Kin-ting) hired by a dying Korean millionaire hoping to find his long lost son. Buck (who was turned over to an orphanage as a baby) learns from reporter Carmen Wong (Kim Min Jeong, whose performance evokes unfortunate memories of the inept female leads from WHO AM I?) that the man was a notorious North Korean agent who defected to the South and became his own boss. When Buck saves him from thugs demanding to know the location of "The Thing," the old man invites Buck to take part in a game that could make him a very rich man, should he unravel the mystery successfully.

Kim Min Jeong and Jackie Chan. Image courtesy Universe.

Buck is soon on his way to Instanbul, where he encounters the beautiful and mysterious Yong (Vivian Hsu Re-hsuan) and even more people anxious to get their hands on "The Thing." Yong's lover is the wanted international fugitive "Mr. Zen" (Wu Hsin-kuo), who is also looking for "The Thing": a new and even deadlier form of Anthrax that was recently tested on some unsuspecting Turkish villagers. The dying old man had something to do with all of this and Buck's quest to get rich could end up costing him his life.

Vivian Hsu. Image courtesy Universe.

Chan may be sporting a few more wrinkles these days but he still moves with the exhilarating grace and precision of man in the prime of life and the fight sequences also feature his customarily inventive use of handy "props." Director Teddy Chan Tak-sun (DOWNTOWN TORPEDOES) makes the most of the local color and architecture and the action setpieces are sufficiently varied. While there is a bit less comedy than usual (a concession to Western markets, perhaps?), there are still some inspired laughs to be found, particularly when a naked Buck desperately fights off attackers in a crowded Turkish market, while trying (unsuccessfully) to keep his nether regions covered. The big stunt finale features a blazing oil tanker and was obviously inspired by SPEED (the driver cannot drop below 80 miles-per-hour or the fire will cascade forward and blow the vehicle to smithereens) but it is exciting and well-staged, so why carp? Talented Taiwanese actor Wu Hsin-kuo is completely wasted in a stock villain role and former softcore star Vivian Hsu is no easier to accept as the romantic lead here than Hsu Chi was in GORGEOUS (Vivian Hsu was 24 when the picture was shot but still looks under 20). In the end, the good far outweighs the bad and that giddy sense of fun one experiences watching the best of Chan's work is present at several points here, making THE ACCIDENTAL SPY one of the most appealing Chinese New Year confections from the past decade. The outtakes offer a little something different this time and be sure to keep an eye out for Bradley James Allen (the fleet-footed caucasian fighter from GORGEOUS who has less conspicuous role this time as an anonymous thug).

Wu Hsin-kuo (foreground). Image courtesy Universe.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5575
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround
International Version (Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and Turkish Dialogue)
Optional Subtitles In English or Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Letterboxed (2.33:1)
Category IIA (for mild violence and comic nudity)
108 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

A few sequences are slightly on the drab side but the balance looks terrific, with the transfer apparently derived from an interpositive, instead of a 35mm print, which is the usual source for HK videos. The stereo sound is more powerful and separated than your average HK mix, with Peter Kam Pui-tat's score coming across particularly well. Some of the sync sound recording is a little flat but always coherent. The disc also includes the DTS mix, the first HK DVD to offer both formats. The English subtitles are well-translated for the most part, and even cover the outtakes, but also needlessly appear during the English dialogue segments as well. The layer change is placed in a logical spot, though it does briefly disrupt the soundtrack.

Vivian Hsu and Jackie Chan. Image courtesy Universe.

Extras include bilingual Star's Files on Chan, Hsu, and Tsang, the HK trailer, trailers for LAVENDER and HIT TEAM, and a 20 minute "Making Of" documentary. Available in Cantonese or Mandarin with Chinese subtitles only, the program includes a couple of abbreviated music videos, interviews (Kim speaks English), and plenty of behind-the-scenes footage (including the obligatory shots of Jackie sweeping up the set -- was he a janitor in his last life?!). While 16:9 enhancement would have been a welcome addition, the dual layer DVD is a very satisfying presentation and available for a nice price to boot (under $US20 from many vendors). Dimension has acquired the domestic rights to the movie and, according to the IMDB, already has Michael Wandmacher composing a new score. You can also expect the mixture of languages to be turfed in favor of an all-English track and 10 or 15 minutes of "superficial" footage to fall by the wayside. Oh, and they will no doubt re-name Chan's character "Jackie," just to make sure that everyone knows who he is, and the American poster will be a cheesy drawing of Chan in a black shirt punching through paper, glass, or bricks. In other words, there is no reason to wait: get the import and enjoy the movie as it was meant to be seen.


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

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