Mercenaries From Hong Kong (1982)
Written & directed by: Wong Jing
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Little Wong Jing in 1982 had gathered up an impressive array of credits, especially now that we look back. Featured in the writing credits of martial arts classics such as The Magnificent Butcher and The Buddhist Fist, the move to Shaw Brothers meant similar gigs with Treasure Hunters, Shaolin Prince, New Tales Of The Flying Fox and outside of Shaw Brothers, Legend Of A Fighter. So we had evidence of new, creative little man that did dabble in comedy but not lazily so because he knew that would automatically generate box office and certainly there's no evidence of the little man nowadays who struggles to put quality together even when adhering to audience friendly formula. Mercenaries From Hong Kong sticks out its head rather distinctly though as it's an star-friendly modern action-vehicle directed by Wong Jing. But neither star-friendly cast or notable crew ultimately stick their head out beyond the production line of movies at Shaw's. It's big, it's loud, it's gory, it's often clichéd in a good way, very Wong Jing but lacking any heart for even the formula it's adhering to.
Luo Li (Ti Lung) goes after the gangsters who supplied the drugs that killed his niece. Getting in contact with rich businesswoman He Ying (Candice Yu) afterwards, Luo Li is offered a well paid job to bring back a criminal from Cambodia. Assembling his team consisting of war buddy Xing (Michael Chan) and 4 others various experts (played by Lo Lieh, Johnny Wang, Wong Yue and Nat Chan), acting as medicine smugglers the operation works but twists and turns along the way reveals that much orchestrated is a setup...
Essentially early on echoing (which is a way too kind term) Michael Chan's opening workout scene in Kirk Wong's The Club (1981), Wong Jing evidently had formed his thoughts on ripping off (although the scene is strangely Chu Yen-Ping esque the way it's copied) and injecting a little bit of everything, including silliness in a movie already at this point in his career. The film promises a lot of good content and aggression based on Ti Lung's agenda early on in the film and the story template of half a dozen brothers in arms whose brotherhood will clearly be tested (points for originality Mercenaries From Hong Kong isn't striving for) is all fine because clichés are fun with somewhat of a definition of sincerity attached to them. There's so many planted lines we know is going to turn up in the script as a twist, character development etc in a latter reel but Wong Jing does for a moment or two have a good eye for clichéd action tactics. Yep, even basic exposition is overly apparent yet non-intrusive with characters breaking out into unnatural speeches for the movie's sake but much derails when Wong Jing brings in Nat Chan as the horny, explosives expert.
We know by his silly antics and constant hard on that the focus is going to be off and it's really odd watching such a distinguished action cast being brought along on the Wong Jing/Nat Chan ride basically. Especially evident in the club scene where Chan manages to chat up a man without knowing it and him later exchanging sexual tips with Michael Chan is just awkward and in this case, not shamelessly fun. Simply put, you can NOT gel logically and still be good. Mercenaries From Hong Kong isn't an example of that.
If the cast (whose standouts includes a dependable Ti Lung, a very sexy Candice Yu and a badass Lee Hoi-Sang) could otherwise engage in something of an engaging, kickass action picture, much if not all could be forgiven but the results on screen are very stale. The brief fights are of a standard kind and again stale. Crap blows up, is shot and the Shaw Brothers blood is used to sometimes very graphic effect but no aspect takes off at any time. Stale. There is a charm towards the latter reel where you essentially could do a drinking game every time you spot the cliché and twist but minor glimpses of charm in a disposable vehicle doesn't cut it. It could've been kickass AND disposable had it been done right but Wong Jing had such movies in his future at this pont.
The DVD (IVL):
Video: 2.39.1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English and traditional Chinese.
* Newly created trailers for Mercenaries From Hong Kong, The Kung-Fu Instructor, Five Tough Guys, Man Of Iron and The Duel.
* Movie Information-section holds 4 Behind The Scenes photos, 10 movie stills, an image of the original poster, production notes that are actually a shorter plot synopsis from the back of the dvd and basic biographies/filmographies for Ti Lung, Wong Yue, Michael Chan, Candice Yu and Wong Jing.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson