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Sunday, March 27, 2016

BIG BULLET -- DVD Review by Porfle

The popular and award-winning Hong Kong cop flick BIG BULLET (1996) is a sleek, lightning-paced shoot-em-up with elements of DIRTY HARRY, DIE HARD, and LETHAL WEAPON all rolled into one sustained paroxysm of fun.

Lau Ching-wan stars as Bill Chu, a veteran Special Forces sergeant who quite justifiably decks his superior after a botched raid results in grievous injury to numerous cops. This gets him demoted to the Emergency Unit, a low-profile, non-glamorous uniformed patrol group doing the most thankless jobs, where he continues to court trouble by getting himself and his team right in the middle of the most volatile situations.

It's a good thing Chu is sort of a hero in cop circles because his new team, eager to prove themselves, will follow him anywhere.  They cover most of the bases: Dan (Lam Sheung Yee), the older cop who's close to retirement; Matt (Cheung Tat-ming), the impetuous rookie; Apple (Theresa Lee), the capable, adorable young female cop everyone else likes; and Tung Fai (Vincent Kok), their ear-to-the-ground office drone back at the station.

Not quite on Chu's side is his second-in-command Inspector Jeff Chiu (Jordan Chan), who would rather keep his nose to the rulebook than engage in any unauthorized police actions.  These, unfortunately, are Chu's speciality, which keeps the two at each other's throats during every action-packed shift.

On the other side, a criminal mastermind known as The Professor (Yu Rongguang) escapes from police custody in the film's first jaw-dropping action blowout that gives us a taste of what's to come.  As his chief gunman, Birdy, Anthony Wong (EXILED, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, THE WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE) gets to do what he does best, which is play a badass.  In fact, as soon as I saw him wearing a cop uniform right before the big breakout, I knew his character was up to no good.

Their plan to steal nine million dollars from Interpol before it can be transported back to the U.S. provides the basic gist of the story.  Chu's knack for being in the right place at the right time puts him and his team where this plan first explodes into action, resulting in a spectacular and sometimes shocking urban warfare sequence which rivals the bank robbery shootout in Michael Mann's HEAT and perhaps even tops it. 

Later, a daring nocturnal break-in at Interpol itself is the impetus for a hail-of-bullets gun battle and a hair-raising car chase through downtown Hong Kong that leaves no vehicle unsmashed.  (Lots of stuff blows up real good, too.) 

The film reaches its peak on the runway of a military airstrip where the bad guys' plan to leave the country with the loot is challenged by our heroes, with the result being yet another certifiably insane action sequence.

Ching Wan Lau and Anthony Wong take top acting honors (in my opinion, anyway), although the entire cast couldn't be better.  As gritty as it is, the script sparkles with humor and engaging character interplay (I love it when Dan's wife suddenly shows up at the window of their police van with his sack lunch), as well as heartfelt moments such as Inspector Chiu's pain over his own brother's involvement in the criminal underworld. 

Direction by Benny Chan (CITY UNDER SIEGE) is lean, sharp, and devoid of unnecessary visual frills.  One especially cool touch is when Anthony Wong's "Birdy" pulls the pin from a grenade, but instead of lobbing it down a flight of stairs at his oncoming pursuers as we think he's going to do, he casually tosses it over his shoulder into a display of large bottled water containers.  The instant tidal wave caused by the explosion washes the hapless policemen back down the stairs as Wong makes his escape.  

The DVD from Warner Archive Collection and Golden Harvest is in 16x9 widescreen with a Dolby 2.0 Chinese soundtrack and English subtitles.  No extras. 

Anyone who relishes a solid, modern cop flick featuring mind-boggling action and a gripping, no-frills story with interesting characters should have a ball watching BIG BULLET.  It's a gritty urban thriller with the heart of a "feelgood" flick. 

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1 comment:

kevinip said...

Do you know if the soundtrack is in Cantonese or Mandarin? Amazon says Mandarin which is strange, since this film was shot in Cantonese and set in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.