Red Rain

One of the more interesting “new” actors in HK these days is Alex Fong. “New” though only in the sense that over the past couple of years he is finally starting to be appreciated and recognized for his work. His acting career actually stretches back to the late 80’s when he appeared in a number of girls with guns films – the first two Angels films being the most renown.  After this he spent a few years in the purgatory of Cat III films with such films as Pretty Woman and Escape from Brothel – but then he started coming into his own. Some actors simply gain a gravity and presence as they mature. Their face takes on character and they begin to look at ease with themselves. Lau Ching-wan certainly falls into this category. In his earlier films he doesn’t really stand out at all – and then suddenly he grew into the ability to fill up a movie screen  - to command the attention of the audience. I don’t think most actors could even tell you how this happens.

I think Fong is going through this same process – though he has not yet really had the opportunities that Lau has had. Having a director such as Johnnie To or John Woo certainly helps boost one’s career. Still he has shown up in such recent “A” productions as Storm Riders and Downtown Torpedoes, was terrific as Sandra Ng’s friend in Portland Street Blues , was the only thing in Cheap Killers that made me at all care about the outcome and was quite comical as the cheating playboy in Your Place or Mine. Regretfully there are simply not enough good male roles to go around these days and for the most part it seems that Lau Ching-wan or Francis Ng or Anthony Wong get them. This finally gets us to the movie at hand! Fong’s presence alone manages to make this fairly limp offering somewhat enjoyable.

The film struck me as basically a case of a potentially interesting script being subverted by dreadful execution on the part of the director. Oddly enough in this case it is the same person who both wrote and directed the film – James Yuen. Yuen is of course best known for his wonderful romantic comedy scripts for UFO such as He’s a Woman, She’s a Man and Wedding Days – but it is clear that he doesn’t yet have the requisite skills to manage a dramatic action film. The pacing of the film is all wrong –– the action sequences are totally unimaginative with no sense of tension being created and the film goes off into a few minor subplots that add nothing to the story.
Alex Fong and Chan Yiu-fu
Alex Fong and Chan Chi-chung are two cops who have come to Taiwan looking for someone who stole HK$ 30MM from the evidence locker. If they can’t find the man and recover the money by Monday (this being Friday I think) a weapons dealer will have to be set free in HK. They have the assistance of Chan Yiu-fu an ex-HK cop now working as a gigolo (!) in Taiwan who actually tells much of the story from his point of view. Their only lead is the daughter (Li Ting-yee) of the man and in one of those unnecessary subplots – it turns out that her dead boy friend looked just like Fong’s assistant and a little romance breaks out in the middle of all this – with musical video type scenes and all. Yikes -  what were they thinking as this brings the film to a complete halt.
Fong and Li Ting-yee
At the same time the weapons dealer is trying to find the girl and the money – and sends Mark Cheng and his men to accomplish this. These guys have some comical potential as we first spot them coming out of the airport (in slow mo – John Woo style) carrying what at first appears to be gun cases – and later turns out to be a guitar and a tennis racket!  Some Taiwanese triad hears of all this and they too start looking for the money. And lets not forget the Taiwanese cops who learn of Fong’s activity (killing a few people will do that) and they start searching for the money!
After a few story twists there is a near Mad Mad Mad World scenario in the end as all the competing interests converge on the bag of money at the same time  - except instead of carrying shovels they are carrying machine guns. This scene had potential for an incredibly wild and frantic shoot out – but Yuen completely botches it as he just has film shots of people getting hit by gunfire and falling down. But there is no sense of who did it and even often what group they belonged to. It’s a complete mess without an inkling of excitement. I was certainly expecting at a minimum a showdown between Fong and Cheng – two pretty good fighters – but it never materializes.

A lot of wasted opportunities in this film – but Alex Fong is quite cool – and the very final scene hit a very nice note.

My rating for this film: 5.5