Thursday, March 13, 2008

China Strike Force

The Action Mutant…
…COOLIO? Was Milli Vanilli busy? Oh, wait...

China Strike Force

review by Joe Burrows

When will foreign filmmakers learn not to kowtow to the white man’s demands? We’ve seen it hundreds of times before: an actor or director can be huge everywhere but if they aren’t dick in America, they aren’t dick. I don’t understand it myself but if you’re going to play that game, can you find someone other than Coolio? Someone’s whose shelf life didn’t end in 1997? Where’s my one hit, dammit?

The Plot, as it was:
Aaron Kwok and Lee Hom Wang star as Darren and Alex, two cops who are out to stop two criminals (Mark Dacascos and Coolio) who want to bring drugs into the mainland. They get aided by a gorgeous Interpol officer (Noriko Fujiwara), who may or may not be playing for the right side. Crazy chases and predictability abound.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop) shows things can come off a little awkward when he doesn’t have Jackie Chan and a room full of furniture at his disposal. Though not an entirely awful effort, China Strike Force has too many strikes (ah, a funny!) going against it to get a clean bill of health. The banality goes past the title and familiar “drug plot” and right to the two leads. Kwok and Hom Wang might as well have had their characters named Bland & Blander for all of the wattage they produce on screen. You almost audibly groan (you almost; I did) when either one shows up because they don’t even provide the quality of being earnest; they’re just there. The two male leads and Fujiwara are also saddled with the unenviable task of being asked to speak their 2nd language (The film was shot in both, English and Mandarin simultaneously) so the line readings leave a lot to be desired (though the line “Coolio killed my brother!” is a howler in any respect). What? You mean Coolio’s name in the film is Coolio? Yes, he’s a drug dealer named Coolio! Not only does that show a lack or creativity but…why would he agree to that? Someone must want the attention awfully bad to be associated to drug dealing and crime under your real name (well, your real stage moniker…ah, fuck it). To his credit, Coolio at least provides some interest and seems to be having fun with his role (though it’s just mostly him cussing and yelling about the differences between blacks and Chinese…yes, it’s a less fun version of Rush Hour) and Dacascos is an icy, evil presence to counterpoint. When the film is up to it, it has its energetic action pieces that are on par to what one would see in a Chan film (most notable are a footrace onto a speeding truck, a car chase with a Formula One car and a fight on top of a glass window). However, those moments are far in between the tedium and most likely someone will have to wake you in order to notice them in their glory.

Body Count/Violence: 17. Most of the death takes place by gun, with a stabbing or spearing thrown in for spice (that ice pick through the throat was neat, though). The climactic fight on the glass scaffold is quite eye popping and would easily be more memorable in a better film. And cars fall from the sky…kinda.

Sexuality/Nudity: None but Noriko (a former Miss Japan in 1992) looks yummy in just about every outfit she sports, namely a skimpy black bikini. There’s also a scene at a lingerie fashion show (yay!).

Language/Dialogue: A fair amount, namely due to our rapper friend.

How bad was it?:
Not one review that I read was totally positive, or even ¾ of the way. All of the reviews had it right in the middle of the road, with a few outright dumping on it. Not that a film with Coolio is going to spark any Oscar buzz.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
CSF was released in Hong Kong by Golden Harvest on 12/21/00 and made about $20.5 million there (budget was n/a). It was released in America on DVD on 8/26/03 by…Dimension Films! And they released it intact! Figure that logic: Bob Weinstein and Co. can butcher Jackie Chan’s masterpieces beyond reproach, yet they leave the leftovers nice and neat?

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: **1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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