17 January 2009 | winner55
Roy Chiao is the star, not the kung fu
Although fights occur here - with greater frequency as the film goes on - this is not really a kung fu movie. It's a real hybrid, a comi-tragedy about a mildly corrupt (but essentially decent) policeman in his middle years who first finds he must take an overly-eager young rookie as partner, and then is presented with a series of bizarre murders. His rather routine life thus begins unraveling....
Some of the set-pieces are a little old, but some were actually daring for their day, since they would have disappointed expectations of fans of either chop-socky films, crime films, or comedies. The villain loses, but the heroes don't really win in this film, and because we've come to care for them, we feel their loss in a way atypical of the Chinese crime film of the day.
One may take or leave such a mixture as a matter of taste; but the film's merit really depends on Roy Chiao's performance as the aging policeman - while commanding every scene he's in with posture and charisma, he is brilliantly understated, using his eyes for expression, his timing for effect. He comes across as a hapless everyman who just winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but endowed with enough native intelligence - and decency - to recognize when things go awry, and to respond with concern for others besides himself. A marvelously naturalistic performance for a film of any genre.