Review: GUNMEN 天羅地網 (1988) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review: GUNMEN 天羅地網 (1988)

Review: GUNMEN 天羅地網 (1988)

Set in the late 1920s in a war-torn Shanghai, GUNMEN centres on Ding Chun-Bei (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), a righteous cop who embraces the law of justice, unlike his fellow corrupted police officers. Despite the corruption, he is determined to stop the ongoing opium operation that has been mushrooming all over the streets of Shanghai. Apparently, the main culprit for the opium operation is his old war nemesis Haye (Adam Cheng), the Chinese officer who used to torture he and his three war buddies -- Chang (Waise Lee), Lau (Mark Cheng) and Cheung (David Wu) -- during the civil war. Nevertheless, Ding sets out for revenge, especially after Haye killed his superior. Then one day, he manages to reunite his three war buddies, who are now working as rickshaw pullers. He convinces them to join him in the police force instead to stop Haye together. When Ding and his three war buddies set out to raid against Haye's so-called opium shipment, they realise it turns out to be medical supplies of penicillin which are supposed to aid Haye's seriously-ill confederate Uncle Liang (Andrew Kam). Because of that, Uncle Liang ends up dead before the penicillin can reach him. Haye and his men are very upset about the matter and vow to swear vengeance against Ding and his three war buddies. That's not all, Ding also finds himself involved with a troubled prostitute Mona Fong (Elizabeth Lee), whom he knows her well from the past. He still cares for her, despite the fact he already has a devoted wife Chu Chiao (Carrie Ng) and a young daughter.

REVIEW: Hong Kong's answer to Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987), this Chinese version titled as GUNMEN is an action-packed but heavily uneven effort.

Kirk Wong's direction is fast paced enough to make this movie an entertaining watch, but he and producer Tsui Hark manage to succeed mostly on its violent action sequences. Thanks to veteran Fung Hak-On, the action choreography, especially the all-hell-breaks-loose gunfight finale, is simply bloody and intense. All the technical credits, as in the period detail of the 1920s Shanghai, is meticulously built.

However, the movie is bogged down by Law Gam-Fai and Lip Wang-Fung's sloppily-written screenplay. At times the movie feels pedestrian and too rushed for the sake to pace up the rhythm. The bloated subplot involving Mona Fong and Chu Chiao is especially underwritten. As for the actors, the cast is a mixed bag. Tony Leung Ka-Fai is perfectly typecast for the kind of a righteous cop role but it is the charismatic Adam Cheng who steals the show as the villainous Haye. Too bad reliable actors like Waise Lee, Mark Cheng, David Wu and Elvis Tsui who plays a no-nonsense police captain, are sadly undermined.

GUNMEN is a fairly worthwhile effort, even though the movie is hardly the best effort both Kirk Wong and Tsui Hark had made in their illustrious career.

Kirk Wong's localised version of Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES is both fast paced and action packed but sloppily-written crime drama.

No comments: