Reviewed by YTSL
People who think that Michael Fitzgerald Wong
is the worst actor in Hong Kong films need to check out this heavy-on-the-testosterone
action offering. This is not to say that I believe that he deserved
the HKFA Best Actor nomination he garnered for his star turn as a muscular
Special Duty Unit (SDU) commander named Don Wong. Rather, what I
am seeking to point out here is that there actually are far worse acting
performances on display -- and individuals with way less screen presence
-- in that which is a loose sequel to another SDU focused movie starring
Michael Wong entitled “Final Option”.
Little evidence exists either in FIRST OPTION
that the 1996 offering’s scriptwriters (Chan Hing-Kai and director Gordon
Chan) produced work that’s of the highest caliber. This is particularly
so when one beholds the English language dialogue they “crafted” for more
than just its Asian-American lead -- who really ought to be more fluent
in Cantonese after having lived and worked in Hong Kong for as many years
as he has -- to utter. Perhaps no where in the film is it more apparent
than when a couple of Yoda’s lines are borrowed from “The Empire Strikes
Back” for the movie’s main man to apparently seriously quote. The
lack of depth of many of this effort’s characters gives further testimony
of the script’s weakness. Ditto re what plot there is -- which centers
on the collaborative effort(s) by different special police sections and
a group of Customs Department agents to carry out a major drug bust and
prevent a huge U.S.A. bound shipment of Golden Triangle narcotics from
leaving Hong Kong -- containing quite a few glaring holes.
Despite all this, the truth of the matter is that
I found FIRST OPTION to constitute quite enthralling as well as entertaining
viewing; so much so that I was quite happy for the most part to overlook
quite a few of the film’s weaknesses. Actually, the fact of the bulk
of the enjoyable movie’s characters being no more than ciphers contributed
enormously to making the lengthy climactic battle and other skirmishes
in which many of them were involved suspenseful and thrilling since the
combatants’ chances of survival were less predictable than they would have
been if their personalities had been more clearly -- and conventionally
-- fashioned. Alternatively put: The tension was considerably
heightened by there being a very strong possibility that quite a few of
the assembled team of law enforcers -- as opposed to just the criminals
-- in this effort were really only around to ensure that there would be
an impressively high body count accrued in each of the often bombastic
work’s well-staged military-type action operations (Although Don Wong states
at one point about his squad that “We are part of the police force.
We are not soldiers”, their style and tactics seem closer to those of US
Navy SEALs and comparable elite troops than any other group of constabulary
depicted in most other Hong Kong productions).
Another aspect of FIRST OPTION appreciated by
this female (re)viewer was the unHollywood-like treatment of -- as well
as part played by -- Gigi Leung’s Inspector Minnie Kwan character.
Although the gangly actress and the very raw looking Customs Department
official she essayed initially looked terribly out of place in that which
a HKMDB reviewer has suggested may be “the ultimate guy movie”, the manner
in which they manage to come up tops in the end was very satisfying to
me. With regards to two other parts played by women in this generally
gung ho effort, I (also) was gratified: That the gender of Lee Fung’s
senior police officer Katie Ngan was apparently considered as unremarkable
as that of the high(er) ranking colleague of hers played by Damian Lau;
and to see the lass disparagingly referred to as a “China doll” by the
film’s chief villain have a role in tracking him down and consequently
ensuring his appropriate fate.
For those Hong Kong movie fans who could care
less about such matters, FIRST OPTION probably will alternately appeal
by way of the amount and type of firepower on display in a film that pits
some dedicated lawmen and -women against a group of expertly-trained --
and heavily-armed -- American military personnel turned drug traffickers.
Suffice to say re this element of the well shot -- pun not particularly
intended... -- offering that action director Bruce Law sure used the generous
amount of large explosives, squibs, ammunition and other tools of his trade
at his disposal to put up a good and exciting show.
My rating for this film: 7.
Distributed by Mei Ah
The transfer is fairly mediocre - dull and
listless like I have been feeling lately. I noticed that Media Asia/Mega
Star has put out a version, which apparently is much better than this one.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
There is no menu - thus no chapters and no
The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English.