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