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April 04, 2013

The Four

The Four poster.jpg

Si da ming bu
Gordon Chan and Janet Chun - 2012
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

There's a lightness of touch that makes The Four more enjoyable than anticipated. There is the period setting, and loads of wire work and special effects, get none it weighs down this film, perhaps because Gordon Chan and Janet Chun keep any sense of self-importance in check.

The first film of an announced trilogy, the basis is from the writings of Wun Ruian. Some liberties were taken, and some resemblances to some comic book superheroes may be more than coincidental. The four are three men and a woman with special powers, led by a self-described "useless old man", members of the special Divine Constabulary. The woman, Emotionless, is something like a distaff Magneto, but much prettier. Cold Hands is a far less hirsute than Wolverine. Maybe the reason why the film works well for me is because the filmmakers don't spend time trying to impress the viewers with either the special powers or the special effects, but choose to move the action along, because really, there's nothing extraordinary about a villain bringing dead people to life, or being able to leap across rooftops in pursuit of the bad guys.

the four 1.jpg

The main story is of the Divine Constabulary working both with and against an elite District Six unit which has just added six females to the staff. Cold Hands has been officially dismissed from District Six, and has been invited to join the Divine Constabulary. Not only are his loyalties divided between these two groups, but he is torn between attraction to Emotionless and District Six's Yaohua. Both groups are trying to find out who is responsible for minting counterfeit coins, potentially undermining the royal government.

What did impress me was the opening shot, a bird's eye view of the city where the action takes place. The "Making of" supplement explains how the shot was done by a combination of cranes with a camera on a series of wires. The bird is a character in the story, the mobile observer for the wheel chair bound Emotionless. There are also a couple of scenes of the female District Six officers bathing, pushing the envelope regarding nudity in a big budget, mainland Chinese film.

The main attraction for myself was seeing another film with Liu Yifei. Most of the time seen in a wheel chair, Liu gets in on the action with some sword fighting and telepathically controlled ninja stars. Frequent Gordon Chan collaborators Anthony Wong and Ronald Cheng appear as the mentor to the four, and the comic Life Snatcher, respectively. Wu Xiobo appears as the villain, An, whose best super power is to crack jokes at seemingly unlikely moments.

the four 2.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 4, 2013 06:42 AM