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    High Risk (1995: Wong Jing: Hong Kong)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    High Risk (1995: Wong Jing: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Tue Jan 05, 2016 4:50 pm

    “You can beat me, but you can’t beat my dad.” – Frankie Lone

    Frankie Lone (Jacky Cheung) is a former martial artist turned actor who drinks, carouses, completely overacts and aghast, has body doubles during difficult stunts, though he is advertised as doing all of his stunts often using his bodyguard Lee Git (Jet Li, a bit or irony here is that Li is doubled in this film.) Of course his yojimbo is much more a man then he is and is played a bit too robotically which is unfortunate because Li does have more depth as an actor though sometimes you would not know this from his roles in the 1990s. Lee Git (aka Corny Man) lost his wife and son to a bomb diffusion of a busload of hostages gone wrong two years before. All Lee has is the voice of the perpetrator. We know him as the Doctor (Kelvin Wong; hey, did I not just see him in Don’t Give a Damn) a mysterious bad guy who was possibly involved in a previous war who has a Mandarin speaking Mainland crew.

    In the meantime two reporters led by Helen Lok (Chingmy Yau) are trying to uncover if Jackie I mean Frankie uses a stunt double. They follow him to an event at the Granedur Hotel (a take-off of the Grandeur Hotel just kidding it is a misspelling which later is spelled correctly) where there is a show for the rich and famous displaying 19th century Russian Tsar’s Nicolas II crown jewels on the 75th floor penthouse. In that hotel is an undercover cop’s girlfriend Jayce (Charlie Yeung) whom the Doctor has taken a liking to and who will get mixed up in what has to be one of the not-so-brilliant heists I have seen. By coincidence Lee Git overhears the Doctor while driving away and with Jayce’s boyfriend they find a way back into the hotel. Will they succeed in thwarting the heist? Who will die? Will Frankie redeem himself?

    Frankie’s manager (Charlie Cho) is a parody of Jackie Chan’s manager Willie Chan and Frankie’s dad (well played by Wu Ma) is of course a reference to Jackie Chan’s dad. Really this whole movie is a combination of a parody of Die Hard (at the time one of Wong Jing’s favorite Hollywood films; the Chinese release title of Die Hard was Tiger Courage, Dragon Might while this film’s Chinese title 鼠膽龍威 translates to Mouse Courage, Dragon Might), a satire on Jackie Chan with random bits of references to Speed, Bruce Lee with Game of Death suit and Lee style vocal noises, of course Wong Jing’s own bizarre humor involving urination and much more.

    Wong Jing in certainly an auteur in the way Roger Corman is and has a “throw in everything including the kitchen sink” type of attitude with many of his films. This has brought the disdain from many more serious Hong Kong directors like Ann Hui. Because Wong Jing is so prolific he can be quite sloppy in his films and makes me wonder how much he delegates to the second unit, action directors and whoever else is nearby. If you start to think while watching this you might wonder where and why did the bad guys bring lots of snakes and a reptile just to throw on a woman who they did not know would actually be in the bathroom beforehand? Even more ridiculous was the reptile venom antidote in a non-hospital building. Or how about how twice people seemed nonplussed to see a gang of armed assailants. Hey there is shady looking people with automatic weapons, I’ll say hi. Or how about how the reporters got a picture of Jet Li coming straight down when they were filming at an angle. Also, how did Song Bong (Billy Chow with an insane mullet that would fit well on a mid-90s WWF wrestler) find Frankie? The use of dummies is quite obvious in the action scenes, almost as obvious as in Casa de mi Padre (2012) though while humorous does make it seem a bit cheap – almost as cheap as the miniature sets they used.

    Now it is certainly entertaining in many aspects. While the biting satire of Jackie Chan does go overboard and Cheung’s overmugging does sometimes get annoying, it is effective and eviscerating attack on Jackie. I was thinking that it should have been more subtle, but I am writing about Wong Jing here and I believe he was trying to be obviously mean. I can easily understand why Jackie Chan was angry about this.* Some of the jokes are funny such as the crotch-grabbing corpse scene which is almost Stephen Chow like. I overall enjoyed the fighting scenes by Corey Yuen. The fisticuffs and footacuffs (not a word, but it should be) with Jet Li and Ben Lam is exciting and well done with nice use of objects you do not normally expect to see. The same goes with the main fight between Jackie Cheung and Billy Chow which is somewhat reminiscent of the finale in The Young Master in which Frankie goes all out to the point of hurting himself. Though I do not think he is always effective with gun battles such as instances where rolling your body helps avoid machine gun fire and no matter how many shots are fired they cannot hit Jet Li (even with an M-60 at close range.). This reminded me of his less-than-stellar gun battles in his directed film Bodyguard from Beijing (1994). But these issues are less noticeable the first time you watch it since Wong Jing keeps a fast pace throughout.

    In 1992 and 1993 director/writer Wong Jing worked with Jackie Chan on City Hunter (1993). Reportedly it was not a pleasant experience for either. But Wong definitely dished a certain amount of cold cinematic revenge with this film, though at a particular cost. While I have not found a primary source on the matter, it has been stated that Li apologized to Jackie Chan for being in this film. It is somewhat telling that Jet Li did not work with Wong Jing as a director again and in most interviews with Jet Li I have read/heard states he has been on friendly terms with Chan. But Li is known for being cordial and usually has polite answers. Li would also later work with Jackie Chan in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom. Now Frankie’s character is redeemed by the end. An all-out assault on Jackie would have had a more biting ending.

    I have two R0/NTSC Universe copies with two different disc covers: a (oooh) shiny one with no decorations and one with Jet Li with a tie. This release has Chinese and English subtitles burnt-in and your choice of the Cantonese and Mandarin audios. On the Cantonese audio you can also hear the antagonists and several others speaking Mandarin and some English is used throughout as well. The print quality is OK, but it is soft and has artifacts (digital noise especially) throughout. I also have a R1/NTSC Columbia Tri-star DVD. On that: the US cut is slightly cut by 29 seconds, though it loses none of the violence. As usual the English dub is not always saying what is in the HK release. It does not have the artifacts that the Universe has, but unfortunately does not have the Cantonese or Mandarin soundtrack yet has a French one. There are optional English and Spanish subtitles. For extras there are Talent Files, Trailer (English), Trailer Gallery (Once Upon a Time in China I-III set, Red Dragon, Gorgeous, The Prisoner) and Photo Gallery with Jet Li Trivia.

    * I recently read Almost Interesting (2015) by David Spade and Spade writes about the infamous issue where he made fun of Eddie Murphy with one comment in a skit and Murphy was upset with him for years. But issues like this are nothing new in cinema. For example William S. Hart (a famous silent cowboy actor) made some disparaging remakes about Buster Keaton’s friend Roscoe Arbuckle and Keaton retaliated by making a Hart spoof The Frozen North.

    References:
    Link: Movie Censorship detailing two different releases and the 29 seconds cut from the Columbia Tri-star release.
    Link: HKMDB Reviews: I tend to like ewaffle’s reviews. His is a little shorter than usual but definitely a fun read.
    My other Wong Jing review: Winner Takes All.

    Questions/Notes:
    I have not found a direct quote from Jet Li on any issues with Wong Jing on High Risk. Please post if you know of one.
    The same issue with Wong Jing on Jackie Chan for City Hunter.
    Ric Meyer’s states in Great Martial Art Movies that Wong Jing considered Jackie Chan for a role in this film, but was turned down and that is why Wong got nasty. Any truth to that?
    The small car driving gun scene reminded me of the later use in Expendables 2.

    Tags: car in elevator, crotch-grabbing corpse (I had to rewrite this), faux chain whip, flame thrower, flying elbow, leg-scissor, nun-chucks.

    Books:
    Jackie Chan: Inside the Dragon (1997) by Clyde Gentry III: I did not use this for the review but I found the following an interesting opinion: “…the characters in the film are played so silly that any harmful statement regarding Jacki Chan’s stunt-doubling was surely unintended.”
    Hong Kong Babylon (1997) by Fredric Dannen and Barry Long: notes that Wong Jing has a degree in Chinese literature; “Wong admires Hollywood films – his favorites are The Cincinnati Kid, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and Die Hard”; comments from Ann Hui.
    Planet Hong Kong 2nd Edition (2011) by David Bordwell: I like this quote on Wong Jing: “But Wong Jing is better understood as one edge of mainstream norms. His comedies carry to a noisy extreme long-standing conventions of episodic construction. As with the Hope-Crosby Road pictures, his swipings, parodies, and retoolings rejuvenate popular traditions in a wholly traditional way. In celebrating games of skill and misdirection, Wong Jing reveals himself as less a freewheeling naïf than a canny craftsman.”
    The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997 (2000) by John Charles: If you do not have this book get it.

      Current date/time is Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:16 pm