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April 16, 2021

The Rookies

the rookies.jpg

Su ren te gong
Alan Yuen - 2019
Shout! Studios

When it comes to making films for Alan Yuen, the spectacle takes precedence over any kind of coherent story. Even more so than Firestorm (2014), we have a collection of sometimes spectacular set pieces strung together with a plot that does not make a whole lot of sense. The rookies of the title are four youngish people, eccentric in their own ways, who accidentally become involved in saving the world from a villain who has a chemical gas that turns people into plants. The action jumps from Hong Kong to Budapest, with our quartet working in conjunction with a secret international crime fighting organization.

The film is mostly comic although some moments of violence undermine the general good cheer. But it is also a mixed bag, with lots of special effects that are a reminder that Yuen intended his film to ideally be seen in 3D. Also mixed is the comedy, with visual humor easily winning over some of the verbal jousting that may have been lost in translation. The version being made available here is entirely in English, jarring when seeing Johnny To supporting player Lam Suet speaking in a voice I know is not his own. A side note here - there seems to be a law that Lam must be seen eating in all film appearances. Lam is a police chief who sends incompetent underling Sandrine Pinna to Budapest. The normally attractive Pinna is unrecognizable with heavy glasses and clothing. Milla Jovovich is sold as the film's main attraction but she is really more of a supporting character here. Yuen's idea of humor is to have her play a secret agent named Bruce, speak with a raspy voice, and wear a man's suit with her hair tightly in place. Imagine a somewhat glammed up Fran Lebowitz as an action star.

The best moments involves the rookies disguised as a Kiss cover band, and a Volkswagen Beetle souped beyond anything imagined for James Bond. That Yuen will try almost anything for a laugh includes a dumb-funny scene with an inflatable sex doll. The Rookies would still have benefitted from tightening up or simply cutting out some of the footage.

The Rookies is available on PVOD and limited theatrical engagements.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 16, 2021 06:55 AM