The Adventurers (1995)

Directed by: Ringo Lam
Written by: Ringo Lam, Sandy Shaw & Yip Gong-Yam
Producer: Wong Jing
Starring: Andy Lau, Paul Chun, Wu Chien-Lien, Rosamund Kwan, Ben Ng & David Chiang

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Being a witness to his parents death at the hand of Ray Lui (Paul Chun - C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri, The Lunatics) back in the political chaos of Cambodia, Wai Lok Yan (Andy Lau) has sworn to take revenge. After a failed assassination attempt, his Uncle Shang (David Chiang) sends Wai into the circles of the CIA as an undercover agent to nail Ray doing illegal weapons deals. It starts by getting close to his daughter Crystal (Wu Chien-Lien - A Moment Of Romance, Intruder)...

On the brink of turning to Hollywood, Ringo Lam's The Adventurers, shot in both Hong Kong, USA and the Philippines, could be lazily described as a warm-up towards that type of filmmaking lacking the uniqueness of said director's work at home grounds. You should stop right there because Lam, at least whenever making his classics and personal films (City On Fire, School On Fire), never made stylistic statements as such. His choices, statements in itself, concerned characters and a nod towards gritty realism in the violence so therefore The Adventurers doesn't seem to stray as such. The only way it does is by performing a heck of a lot worse than we've come to expect from Ringo.

Fresh from his excellent tour of duty in the Wuxia genre (Burning Paradise), Lam has simple and quick goals to accomplish (quick being a keyword). Going routine by Recycling the back story structure set against war torn, political turmoil carried into revenge-seeking adulthood, when Lam sheds blood, it's an effect and here's where probably the "Hollywood filmmaking" is at its least apparent as almost everyone is sacrificed in the opening reel. Threats of turning Andy Lau's character journey into pretentious symbolism for the masses via a short shot of a Buddha statue being stuck in the fire of his childhood home in Cambodia, Lam does achieve a fairly chilling effect early on that demands attention. When setting aside later that the film won't be a Chinese Top Gun either, the revenge thread takes center stage as well as the portrayal of a torn undercover agent. Ring a bell?

Unfortunately it does and creativity with character drama is nowhere to be found in Lam's frame. While the majority of the proceedings leans more towards being efficient on a B-movie scale in a world perspective (it's an A-movie in Hong Kong), obviously time is set aside to explore emotions of characters but a feeling sinks in that Lam knows he's been here before and isn't interested in following through again. Considering the editing in the middle takes GIGANTIC leaps in time, the project has made up its mind what it wants to be with Ringo supporting it via a half-hearted attempt. The imprint is missing

Having charisma at the forefront in the form of Andy Lau isn't a drawback for this production however. Automatically looking rather calm and cool, Lau does decent work when venturing into displays of emotions having to do with his mission at hand and being stuck between priorities, including the two women. David Chiang's veteran, elder presence could be sleepwalked through arguably but it's a welcome act. One who can't fail no matter what she does or says is Wu Chien-Lien who always seems to treat her material with utmost dedication and she again emerges as the biggest winner of the film, without her range equaling reference material. A much missed actress in films. While as usual given little to do, Rosamund Kwan logs a sexy, commanding and even deliciously evil supporting act as Ray Lui's price trophy girlfriend. In the bad guy camp, Paul Chun's standard act done almost solely behind sun glasses is not an original and Ben Ng, at the best of times the most dangerous motherf*cker on two legs in Hong Kong cinema, lingers in the background as a requisite left hand to the villain.

Having these performers at hand but instead allowing them to break out into colourful rants or acts of harsh violence could've made The Adventurers turn into a shallow exercise in unashamed nastiness but as it stands now, the minor ventures in those areas are the only ones that warrants attention. The gore is handed out quite frequently but in the end with a hint of disinterest from a Ringo Lam heading out. It turned out to be a much better time at the movies when he was heading in again.

The DVD:

Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Aside from select scenes with grain and dirt, the remastered print looks attractive with fairly vivid colours and sufficient sharpness.

The mixed language track in synch sound primarily uses Cantonese (a few English language scenes that were post-synched but into Cantonese instead!) and the option labeled Original Theatrical Mix gives us a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround rendition. No mention of the production being mixed in Dolby can be found in the end credits but even if this is a downmix from the alternate 5.1 selection, it's not an experience with the expected oomphs considering the spectacle at times on-screen. Rather the track stays centered with occasional fair activity in fronts and surrounds. In comparison the Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 option is seemingly mono. A Cantonese DTS 5.1 selection is also included.

The English subtitles contains some flaws in the grammar department but on the whole are well-worded. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. Mei Ah skimps on the extras as usual, giving us the trailer and Databank with cast & crew listing and a synopsis.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson