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January 07, 2014

Badges of Fury

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Bu Er Shen Tan
Wong Chi Ming - 2013
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

There's a scene in near the beginning of Badges of Fury that is a reminder of why Corey Yuen remains one of the best action directors. Jet Li is chasing a bad guy. The bad guy goes to a stairwell and rather than simply run down the stairs, does a bit of parkour, skipping a couple of floors by bouncing against the walls. The stairwell is not that wide, so that even though wire work is involved, the scene does not seem entirely exaggerated. Li, however, does the bad guy one better by jumping into the middle of the stairwell, using his arm to navigate himself against the staircase railings, in order to catch up with his suspect. The two finally fight it out on the stairs. One of my favorite examples of Yuen's work is in the first Transporter film, and again Yuen shows how to choreograph a fight scene with a very confined space. And, yes, it's done with a combination of wire work and special effects, but that doesn't diminish the fun of watching Li in action.

For the most part, Badges of Fury is an amiable goof on both Hong Kong cinema and some of the cliches of police action films. There are a lot of quick cameos, most quickly recognizable of which is Lam Suet as a taxi driver. Cop Jet Li is praised for his work in stopping video piracy, which is notable for involving downloads of several films starring . . . you guessed it . . . Jet Li. Most people with some familiarity will get some of the gags here, which would be comparable to some of the topical Hollywood joking found in a Road movie with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

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That there is a story here, with a team of three incompetent detectives trying to find out who is murdering several men. The victims are all former fiances of an upcoming actress, and all die under mysterious circumstances, with a smile on their faces. When it seems that the actress is innocent, all eyes fall on her older, sexier sister. Of course all eyes are on the sister anyways due to her penchant for her admittedly stunning decolletage.

Most of the heavy lifting here is done by Wen Zhang and Michelle Chen, as Li's crime fighting partners. The two bicker about everything, from Chen's knowledge of psychology to Wen's seemingly preposterous deductions. Aside from doing most of the action scenes, Wen also takes the most pratfalls. One of the reliable signs of a good comic actor is being unafraid of looking totally foolish, and Wen is up to the task. In the film's opening scene, taking place during what is suppose to be a Scottish style celebration, Wen wears a kilt, actually a plaid miniskirt, and is caught in an upskirt shot.

The use of comic sound effects, the kind of stuff I usually associate with Thai comedies, is fortunately abandoned after the first half of the film. Better is when Wen faces off with a bunch of old kung fu masters who all go into their poses. One has certain expectations with Jet Li, especially when he shows up to face off against several men at once. Without giving too much away, it should be pointed out that Li's character's name is variation of the name of one of the most popular characters portrayed by Li, the martial arts master, Wong Fei-hung. Li has more fun at his own expense, with the former Miss World, six foot tall Zhang Zilin. Li might have fists of legend, but in getting a laugh regarding his height, he's fearless.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 7, 2014 07:42 AM