Review: Fanciful actioner falls apart

Review Action


126 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: Several bombs go off around Harbour City in a single morning. Feted cop Hero Wu (Mark Chao) sets off on his own hoping to solve the mystery behind them, but another snarky cop by the name of Chen Zhen (Lin Gengxin) keeps getting in his way.

Bigger is not necessarily better for director Tsai Yueh-hsun and his police drama franchise Black & White.

In this second big-screen follow-up to the hugely successful 2009 TV drama, the scale of everything is larger than ever, from the massive explosions to the expensive special effects. In one scene, an entire police station is blasted to the ground. According to reports, it was done with real explosives and not CGI.

It is a valiant effort on Tsai's part to attempt what he dubs "a Chinese-language actioner to match up to Hollywood", but it is clear he got carried away.

Or, perhaps, he had too much fun taking on the role of the head terrorist himself here - his first acting gig in over two decades - that he forgot his main duty of piecing together a coherent story.

There is so much going on in this messy NT$600-million (S$25.2-million) film that the viewer would be completely confused by the second half.

The entire first act is suspenseful as the city's cops, including the famous Hero, attempt to nail the perpetrators of the acts of terror against a tight deadline.

Then the military gets involved (Singapore's Christopher Lee makes a cameo as a general), an elite squad member (Shiou Chieh-kai) bizarrely decides to fight the baddies on his own, a chemical warfare plan is hatched and everything spirals out of control.

The original Black & White TV series made its name on a complex but credible interwoven plot of intrigue and conspiracy. In this film, however, it is style over substance as the fanciful action sequences get in the way, rather than aid, the central plot.

Worse, the chemistry between Hero and his new partner Chen is nowhere near the one Hero and Vic Chou's Riffraff shared on the TV show, though it is not entirely the fault of the stars. Lin is more sidekick than partner here, showing up only every now and then to offer a few snarky remarks.

As goofy and endearing as Chen is, he fails to measure up to Riffraff's flirtatious charm, which made the original character so much more charismatic to watch.

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