The Criminal Hunter
Before the opening credits even begin rolling
in this 1988 film, there is a wild shootout between the cops and the bad
guys and then soon after a horrific scene in which the head bad guy takes
revenge by shooting the wife and child of the cop. This is, of course,
what you expect from a Frankie Chan directed film – action from beginning
to end – and especially in one that is choreographed by Phillip Kwok.
Disappointingly though, after this initial action explosion the film tames
down considerably and makes an effort to develop character over the next
half of the film until again springing back to life in the last thirty
minutes. What is a Frankie Chan film doing trying to develop character!
Hong Kong cop, Danny Lee, and some of his men
are relaxing in a sauna when a gun deal goes down in the locker room. A
betrayal later and the cops are in the middle of a deadly shootout and
when the air clears three of the bad guys are soaking up more blood than
sweat. Only the head gangster, Dick Wei, gets away – but after seeing Danny
on TV he tracks him down and shoots his wife and baby. Danny spends the
remainder of the film looking to revenge his family.
In a mild theft from 48 Hours, Danny gets Eric
Tsang out of prison to help him find Wei. Tsang and Wei were partners in
a robbery years before in which Tsang was caught and sent to prison. In
one of the oddest romantic couplings in HK film, Eric checks in with his
girlfriend – the rapturous Nina Li. It’s like seeing a lump of coal next
to a priceless diamond – but Nina loves him in her way and he rightfully
adores her. She is a runway model and Frankie Chan makes excellent use
of this in capturing Nina in a number of lovely poses.
Danny Lee and Tsang are a mismatched couple as
well and spend much of the film at odds until they have to work together
to catch Wei. Wei has rarely been so nasty as he is in this film – a long
scar running across his face – and he kills anyone that gets in his way
without a moment’s hesitation. He comes looking for Eric – and has a lengthy
and brutal fight against Tsang, Nina and her kung fu father, Kwan Hoi San.
It is a powerful and bloody little scene with all three attempting to protect
one another from the far more powerful Wei.
Towards the end of the film it becomes morbidly
maudlin and truly bizarre. I assume Chan is going for the heart here, but
it just feels very creepy and almost comical – and borders on necrophilia.
The film has a couple solid action scenes, but the dramatic sections fall
short and the narrative is all over the place. Shing Fui-on also has a
solid role as Danny’s faithful underling.
My rating for this film: 5.5