12 January 2006 | rmj1971
Flashy, violent, disposable...like its heroes
Daniel Lee must have watched too many Michael Bay films, such is the speed of the editing in Dragon Squad. On top of that, the director throws in a myriad of cinematic tricks and gimmicks in an obvious attempt to try and capture a hip audience for his picture. Slow-motion, fast-motion, filters, crazy camera angles, bloody violence, a group of young actors that could pass for designer clothes store mannequins; your average thirteen year-old would probably think this is one of the best films ever made. Maybe that's the point. To a more (ahem) mature viewer, however, the movie plays like an extended pop video, where a long fringe or moody look is supposed to give our anguished heroes some depth. It doesn't. In fact as you watch the film, it begins to resemble an ultra-violent version of the A-Team. For surely only in that classic of 80s t.v. could almost a dozen protagonists firing automatic weapons in a narrow alley not hit each other with a single shot for five minutes. Aren't these people supposed to be highly trained cops and ex-special forces nutters? Duh? But then it happens. One of our paper-thin leads takes a bullet to the brain and suddenly Lee's film hits the ground running, becoming a darker and more twisted bastard of a film. So what's to recommend to the curious viewer about this movie? Well, the last half-hour is certainly more satisfyingly gritty, if just as silly, as all that has preceded it. On top of that, with our fledgling super-cops a charisma-free zone, it's up to old hands to give Dragon Squad some bite. Fortunately, (though given little to work with) Maggie Q, Michael Biehn, Sammo Hung and Jun-ho Heo managed to interject some weight into proceedings through sheer force of personality. Sammo and Heo's characters personal battle within the narrative is the film's highlight, culminating in a decent punch-up that is well choreographed by Hung protégé Chin Kar Lok. The numerous gun battles are also finely staged, certainly more brutal and bloody than the balletic shootouts of John Woo's justifiably lauded Hong Kong output. The film also has an excellent original soundtrack and there are some fun cameos, including Simon Yam (somewhat wasted), Kung-fu legend Gordon Lui (funny) and Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan (wooden). So if you're looking for a popcorn action flick with an Asian flavour, I guess you could do worse than Dragon Squad. You could also do a lot better.