Review: UNDECLARED WAR 聖戰風雲 (1990) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: UNDECLARED WAR 聖戰風雲 (1990)

Review: UNDECLARED WAR 聖戰風雲 (1990)

UNDECLARED WAR begins with the U.S. ambassador (David Hedison) and his wife brutally slain by a group of terrorists in a crowded cathedral in Warsaw. CIA agent Gary Redner (Peter Lapis), who also there during the shootout, is left devastated because the dead U.S. ambassador is happened to be his brother-in-law. After discovering the same terrorist group, led by Hannibal (Vernon G. Wells) is now showing up in Hong Kong with an elaborate plan to attack an international business conference, Gary hurries there with his partner Callahan (Dean Harrington) to track him down at all cost. However, he is forced to deal with the strict Hong Kong law while keep running afoul with the local police inspector Bong (Danny Lee). When Hannibal and his gang keep succeeding one brutal slain after another that cost a lot of innocent lives, Gary and Bong are forced to set their difference aside and eventually cooperate together to bring the terrorist group down once and for all.

REVIEW: After back-to-back successes of CITY ON FIRE and PRISON ON FIRE (both released in 1987), Cinema City took a huge gamble with award-winning director Ringo Lam and granted him his first stab at a big-budget action picture titled as UNDECLARED WAR, which is aimed at the international market. While it was certainly an interesting departure from Ringo Lam's usual offering, the movie turns out to be a commercial disaster both critically and financially. Worst still, this is the movie that virtually bankrupted Cinema City studio and almost killed Ringo Lam's once-promising career.

Despite blessing with a big-budget tag, UNDECLARED WAR still looks like an average Hong Kong action production pretending to be a major Hollywood blockbuster. While the action is generally acceptable with enough violence, chase, shootout and explosion to satisfy most viewers, the same cannot be said with the cheap-looking blood squibs used here that looks more like red dust. Ringo Lam's direction is mostly haphazard and he seems to go auto-pilot throughout the movie. Perhaps it was obvious that a story with this magnitude doesn't suit him after all. Nam Yin, Timothy Lung, Deborah Grant and Louis Roth's hackneyed script which tries hard to be both serious and funny, often ends up like a hokey B-picture. Can you imagine a cringeworthy dialogue like Tommy Wong's (who plays Bong's partner) infamous line where he called the then-American president, "Mr George Bullshit"?

As for the acting, Peter Lapis is a strict caricature of a typical American hero you often found in Hollywood action movie. Danny Lee is adequate as the righteous, by-the-book cop and I'm quite surprised his English delivery is quite decent, even though he tends to sound as if he's reading a textbook. Vernon G. Wells is cartoonish as Hannibal, while Rosamund Kwan, who plays a TV reporter, is (typically) neglected to a flower-vase role.

Ringo Lam's first foray into the big-budget action picture is a haphazard Hollywood-like blockbuster wannabe that ends up more like a cheesy B-picture.

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