Watching The Four is a depressing prospect, not only for the shameless grandstanding we are sure to witness from the wholesale theft of ideas that worked better elsewhere, but for the near-certainty that the movie will crumble into a mess under the unfortunately ham-fisted direction of Gordon Chan. By turns confused and clueless, The Four never really settles on an identity that it's comfortable with, resulting in parts that feel woefully out of place. At least Chan delivers an honest effort with the action but it's not worth the trouble.
The recent circulation of counterfeit money has landed the capital of the Song Dynasty in a predicament. The Department Six Constabulary and Divine Constabulary are sent to investigate but complications arise when the competing constabularies constantly get into each other's way. The Divine Constabulary is eventually suspended but spearheaded by the eponymous The Four, the constabulary continues to work on the case. It soon uncovers a more sinister plot to overthrow the government and must rush against time to stop the perpetrator before he plunges the dynasty into chaos.
Chan tries to put on a heady, feverish spin to this underlying material yet succeeds only in overwhelming it with unnecessary ideas that I suspect many of you would have trouble making sense of. From off the shelf romantic malarkey to flame-throwing mutants to jarringly misplaced zombies in settings that don't otherwise account for them, it seems fairly clear that Chan will steal from anywhere to build a brazen showpiece that feels more awkward than fulfilling. Unfortunately, he is nowhere near the wisdom that will make it all work and it shows in his unfocused direction where he demonstrates his inability at making smooth transitions. Don't get me wrong. I'm not discouraging creativity, only saying that The Four could have benefited more from a far less ambitious approach.
There's little doubt that Chan's heart is with the more action- orientated parts of the movie as he quickly morphs the supposed crime procedural drama into a battle between cadres of mutants. It's here that The Four breaks out its mishmash of characters that are blatantly copied from the other side of the world: A mind-reading girl bound to a wheelchair with a 'X logo' wheel, who can also control objects with her mind is an embodiment of 2 certain characters from X-Men, an assassin who can turn totally invisible and create a force field is a concept lifted directly from a certain character in Fantastic Four and a hubris- laden, quick-witted man who can set himself on fire (and freeze people for good measure) draws traits from another character in Fantastic Four. It seems really ironic that a movie dealing with counterfeit money is in fact the most glaring counterfeit showcase.
At least the movie's serviceable special effects and professional, if completely routine action set-pieces do the Chinese rendition of Marvel characters justice but I sincerely question whether The Four really wants to be saved at all at this point. The conclusion is conservative, uninspiring and uncreative, and really all about relying on an untidy myriad of special effects to put out the fireworks than mitigating its embarrassments with a rousing display of well-choreographed action. There's nothing from The Four to take home with – just a reminder of a disaster that could have been avoided had the movie been crafted with more thought and less narcissism.