Reviewed by YTSL
On one hand, one can see how this Hong Kong
movie aspired to have an international -- or should I say Hollywood? --
flavor and look. This is, after all, a production that starts off
in Chicago before it quickly moves in and out of a Belfast location, then
heads to Hong Kong (and subsequently Kuala Lumpur). It should be
pointed out as well that its protagonists -- agents CS Koo (Jordan Chan
is serious and intense in this incarnation), Tango One (who comes in the
form of the (still) virginal-looking Ekin Cheng (who, as Dior Cheng, played
a virgin who falls for club hostess Carina Lau in "Girls without Tomorrow"
and the faking-being-a-prostitute Chingmy Yau in "Boys are Easy"!)) and
Szeto Blue (Kelly Chen speaks the best English of the three and has a high
place in the cast credits but actually doesn't get that much to do) --
work for the USA's Central Intelligence Agency.
On the other hand, whether the makers of this
movie like it or not, HOT WAR seems -- at least to me -- to be so culturally
bound and chronologically specific by such as its choice of topical events
to focus on (i.e., the 1998 (soccer) World Cup Finals and the fairly recent
global -- or at least East Asian -- economic downturn which many Asians
perceive as having been caused by currency speculators like George Soros)
and villain (Terence Yin - a bleached blonde who looks a lot like a cross
between Aaron Kwok and an English soccer player named David Beckham, best
known to non-soccer fans as Mr. Posh Spice, who was so vilified after the
1998 World Cup that he was hanged in effigy in quite a few places in his
native country!). Also, quite a few of this movie's sequences are
reminiscent of other Hong Kong movies. For example, the hi-tech ("Virtual
Reality") training sessions that CS and Tango go through (to better prepare
them to rescue Blue) look like what the makers of "Black Cat" had sought
to do, albeit on a much lower budget and several years older technology.
And it really is difficult for this viewer -- and I am sure others -- to
watch two heroes' pursuit of a villain through the Malaysian capital city
that involves an aerial "tour" plus a motorbike without thinking of "Supercop"'s
climactic chase sequence (especially when one realizes that Jackie Chan
is the producer of HOT WAR!).
Perhaps the Hong Kong movie that I have seen that
this 1998 production most reminds me of is the equally cyber-tech-oriented,
global jet setting, cool-and-slick-looking "Downtown Torpedoes" (which
Jordan Chan). While I like that 1997
effort, I thought that it did not have as much heart and soul as many older,
lower budget and grainy filmed Hong Kong classics. This criticism
is even more valid with regards to HOT WAR. While it has a polished
looks, it – more specifically, the characters and plots -- lacks depth.
Also, and this is not only with regards to its color scheme, it lacks warmth.
Frankly, if HOT WAR is a taken as a sign as well as evidence of where Hong
Kong (action) movies are heading, I fear that the industry (a number of
whose products I have grown to love and respect) truly is -- or will be
– in trouble, or definitely has become a pale shade of its previous vibrant
This is not to say that there are no elements
in this work which represent signs that the characteristically Hong Kong
movie outlook and spirit remain, and from which I consequently do take
some comfort and pleasure. Among them: The presence of women
who are not only in the picture because they are the girlfriend or wife
of the lead(s) (although, disturbingly, Kelly Chen gives Ekin Cheng the
kind of look at one point that, in truth, I have previously only seen in
American movies); the willingness to kill off sympathetic characters; and
the inclusion of small moving scenes involving men which show that they
(not just women) definitely have a emotional side to their characters (It
says a lot about the acting ability of Jordan Chan vis a vis Ekin Cheng
though that a scene of this sort acted out by one of them comes across
as very touching while another in which the other figures just comes across
as trite). Now if only there had been more of them...
My rating for the film: 6.5.