Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DRAGON SQUAD: More style than substance

(HK action thriller in Cantonese)
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * 1/2
The young Interpol agents of Dragon Squad

FIRST, let’s talk about style. The movie poster, featuring some of Asia’s hottest young stars, looks like stuff you can chatter about for hours at the mamak stalls. Next, let’s talk about the cast. It not only has Hong Kong stalwarts like Sammo Hung and Simon Yam, but also heart-throbs like Maggie Q, Vanness Wu, Andy On and Shawn Yue — and even Hollywood’s Michael Biehn of The Abyss fame.

Let’s talk attitude: The guys of Dragon Squad are full of ‘attitude’. They not only talk tough, they act tough too. Why, Sammo Hung, who plays a disgraced cop trainer, puffs on a cigar even when he goes out for his morning jog with the recruits. And let’s talk about the premise. With a plot about Interpol agents fighting master criminals who have come to Hong Kong to settle a score with the notorious ‘Puma Duen’, it is definitely a premise with promise.

Promises, promises. What all these add up to is a loud action-packed flick that makes no sense at all. It is evident that director Daniel Lee has tried to throw art into the fray, especially the fighting sequences, but all it amounts to is style without substance. A total waste of time.

The five Interpol agents are played by Xia Yu, Eva Huang, Vanness Wu, Lawrence Chou, and Shawn Yue. They have come to bring the crime lord Puma Duen to justice but before they can even start, ‘Puma’ is captured by a gang of mercenaries led by Petros Davinci (Biehn), his buddy Ko (Huh Joon-ho) and sharpshooter ‘Viet’ (Maggie Q).

Petros wants revenge for the murder of his brother — and so does Ko for some betrayal. However, they are not satisfied with just capturing Puma, they also want Puma’s brother, Tiger.
In order to get into Tiger’s lair, Petros befriends Tiger’s old flame Ching (Li Bing-Bing) who is unwittingly hiding the man’s secret account numbers.

Meanwhile, the Interpol agents, not wanting to go back empty-handed, seek the permission of police commissioner Hon Sun (Simon Yam) to get veteran cop Kong Loong (Sammo Hung) to help them track down the mercenaries. You would have thought that with such a plot, there would be some tension and suspense. There is nothing of the sort. Instead, we get a lot of ‘posturing’ and acts of bravado, like dashing out into a hail of bullets (and coming out unscathed).

Yes, these guys talk big too, spewing ‘lines of wisdom’ like “Everything can be negotiated, except the truth”, “A soldier’s glory is to die in battle” and “Your own memories can lie to you”. Some scenes are ‘painful’ to watch. Like the beautiful Maggie Q trying to act tough, Xia Yu and Eva Huang trying to be lovers, and an overweight Sammo jogging with his breasts flapping up and down.

The Asian criterion for international ‘blockbusters’ seems to be that they must have fantastic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-type of action. Nothing else seems to matter.
Well, soon western cinema-goers are going to get tired of them. Most people in Asia are, anyway.


At 1:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

never heard of this movie but it sounds interesting!


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