Director: Sam Leung
Cast: Alex Fong Chung-shun, Simon Yam, Hisako Shirata, Sonny Chiba, Crystal Kwok, Edwin Siu
Co-production has a long tradition in Hong Kong. Back in the 60s, there were already some Hong Kong / Japan co-productions. Big movie studios like Shaw Brothers had also hired Japanese filmmakers to make movies in Hong Kong. During the heyday of Hong Kong cinema in the 80s, this trend was at its peak. However, the number of these movies just started to decrease as the market has been recessing in these few years. Nevertheless, young filmmaker Sam Leung still managed to gain the trust from Japanese investors and initated quite some projects lately, including No Problem, Perfect Education 3 and the latest action movie Explosive City.
Although it is regarded as a Hong Kong and Japan co-production, the entire movie was shot in Hong Kong and Macau. Most of the cast and crew, including the director and the lead actors, are also from Hong Kong, so technically speaking, it is no different from any other domestic action thrillers. Perhaps influenced by the "Infernal Affairs" phenomenon, the story of this movie also involves the popular "undercover" element. It starts off with an attempted assassination case of a government official (Joe Cheung). Superintendent Cheung Chi-sing (Simon Yam) and liutenant Yiu Tin-ming (Alex Fong) are in charge of this case. When they are trying to interrogate the killer Jade (Hisako Shirata), whom they have arrested in the crime scene, they soon realize that she is suffering from amnesia, and at the same time, Ming suddenly loses control and kidnaps Jade away...
The entire storyline is quite cliched, from the female killer in Shiri, to the suspect who is suffering from amnesia in Purple Storm, and the vague classification of good and bad from Infernal Affairs, it just reminded me of a lot of movies during the screening. The film without doubt provides a nice summary of the action thriller genre of recent years. Although it isn't bad to draw inspiration from the others, it is also very important that the filmmaker should be able to transcend and incorporate the materials into his movie, but obviously, the excessively fruitful plot is little beyond the control of new director Sam Leung's ability. The major problem of the plot is that, too many elements are packed together without any refinement. No matter the transitions between each event or the designs of the characters, they all just fail to work together well, and the result is that most of the scenes become irrational, hence the entire story just lacks the persuasive power to draw the attention of the audience. For instance, as an experienced liutenant and leader, Ming just seems to act too rash in most cases, it is as of the only thing he knows to do is to point his gun at the head of an unarmed person. Overall speaking, the depictions of most of the characters are very vague, like, what is the real intention of Sing? Why is Jade's temperament so incoherent? The movie just fails to answer any of these questions.
Nevertheless, despite having a weak script and a little anti-climactic ending, Sam Leung's directing approach is actually better than I expected. Most of the gun fight and exploding scenes are handled carefully, the pacing and editing also seem to fall right in place. Talking about the cast, both Alex Fong and Simon Yam are masculine actors, and their appearances certain fit the roles perfectly, however, there are not much they can do since the plot is inadequate to bring out the appeal of the characters. The same also happens to the two Japanese actors, Sonny Chiba and Hisako Shirata. Both of them play their parts well, but there simply are not any unforgettable moments I could remember.
Perhaps Explosive City is not a highly successful movie, it is still worth our appreciation. It is especially encouraging to see that through this kind of co-production, filmmakers from different regions are able to exchange and share ideas and benefit from it. Let's just hope Sam Leung's next project will show some improvement and surprise us!
Reviewed by: Kantorates