Red Shield (1991)
Directed by: Parkman Wong
Inspector Lui (Danny Lee) is paired up with Officer Wong (Leung Kar-Yan) in a special unit after Wong has taken out one of the suspects in Hor Lung's (Ben Lam) weapons- and drug smuggling gang. Getting along quite well and being efficient as a pair, their respective, troubled home life eventually gets into the line of fire...
The 3rd and final film Parkman Wong directed for Danny Lee's Magnum Films (the other two being Final Justice and The Unmatchable Match, both starring Stephen Chow), the production company delivers Red Shield in a supersolid manner and that takes some examination as to why it is so. Steering clear of most comedic detours this buddy concept would be expected to head into and instead delivering a script that is essentially the brief plot synopsis for the film too, Parkman Wong's work to keep the movie focused still needs to be applauded.
Showcasing in the opening attack by the SDU on the gang that big fire- and vehicular power could be a trademark, Red Shield doesn't necessarily live up to that stamp of being big and certainly doesn't make the script/plot synopsis extend beyond that as we're introduced to our villains. Ben Lam dresses in a long coat, his violent right hand men such as Yuen Wah and Jackson Lau will never convince anyone in this movie universe that they're anything but evil henchmen but Parkman Wong has a nice, efficient grip on the action entertainment he's in charge of delivering. Moving equally efficiently through the downtime between action the movie has that means the neglected women (Danny Lee's wife is played by Teresa Mo while Leung Kar-Yan's flirty one is annoyingly essayed by a loud Yip San) take their place in the story, Danny Lee shows the best chops here as he's made to fit the one tone storytelling more than Leung Kar-Yan.
Lee's Lui is high on work ethics and low on communication at home (no wonder when the biggest furniture is his communication center in the living room) and since Danny is a talented performer, the subtle facial expressions talking of how difficult Lui finds it to adjust to being a home man, even when his wife announces her pregnancy, is often endearing. One adult knowing his job and one green kid learning his. In the other unit, Leung Kar-Yan's Wong is mostly dragged into a light, comedic side to the film that is not necessary. Being suspicious of his wife to quite a high degree, this sitcom-esque banter rarely fits even if it doesn't make the movie take a huge leap into classic, contrasting Hong Kong cinema moods. What's compelling about Leung's performance though is a combination of being timid as a cop and TRYING to be very authoritarian as a husband.
Along with cinematographer Tony Miu (Dr. Lamb, Red To Kill), Parkman Wong's work as a fairly slick storyteller is ultimately the biggest highlight. Drowning scenes in colour filters isn't always a fresh choice but a kitchen scene involving Leung Kar-Yan chasing a suspect is tense and the epic scenario at the refugee camp is genuinely distressing and scary as the cop duo ventures into hell. Some violence with chainsaws, going against your superiors and heroic bloodshed shootouts later, Red Shield manages to sink its teeth into the genre fairly well and delivers solid results on pretty much every front equally. It's nice to see Danny Lee's brand of justice still being this subdued rather than when he found out the possibilities the Category III rating allowed via movies such as The Untold Story and in particular Twist. His choices later made him come off as a watchable exploitation filmmaker but quite far from the respect he easily earns under Parkman Wong's direction here.
The DVD (Universe):
Video: 1.79:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0. The former option is a downmixed version of the bad stereo remix the film received on laserdisc while the latter has original sound effects and music.
Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and Bahasa (Malaysia).
Extras: Star's File (brief multi lingual biography/filmography on Danny Lee) and trailers for Red Shield, The Law Enforcer, Law With Two Phases and Road Warriors.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson